Absolute Boat Care
Palma Shipwrights & Joiners
Pharmacy Progrés
Breaking News
Home > Crew Matters > Managing uncertainty

Managing uncertainty

How are you coping in these challenging times?

For most, we are in a period of upheaval and uncertainty, with normal operations on hold. Unable to plan for the season ahead, and unsure when guests and owners may return, it can be difficult to keep crew – at all levels – focused and motivated. Now more than ever, creating an atmosphere of trust and openness aboard is vital.

Our brains are hard wired to respond to uncertainty with fear, leading to anxiety and poor decision-making. In fact, research has shown that the less information we have, the more irrational our decision making becomes, because we move from using the logical part of the brain (left side) to the limbic system (deep within the brain) which is where emotions such as fear and anxiety are generated.

However, if we are able to recognise when this is happening, we can consciously re-engage the logical and rational part of the brain. Becoming aware of our emotions, and making the conscious effort to remain calm and mindful of our thoughts (or setting important decisions aside until we are able to make them in a considered manner), should enable us to make more logical and rational decisions.

Be aware that much of the uncertainty comes from a lack of information. While this isn’t something you can necessarily resolve, accepting that plans will be in flux and subject to change, and communicating this clearly to your crew, will enable you to remain flexible and reactive to the changing situation. It will also help your team to manage their own worries and anxiety if they know you’re all in this together.

Being open with crew is vital.  Share what you do and don’t know, and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Vulnerability may not be traditionally included in the top 10 list of leadership qualities, but at this time in particular, it is important to be demonstrate this trait as part of being an authentic leader. Who can honestly say they have all the answers, or that they haven’t made a mistake or allowed their emotions to get the better of them? It takes humility and vulnerability to admit those failings, first to ourselves and then to others. Embracing this will allow you to lead your crew more effectively, as well as to communicate more honestly with them.

When it comes to decision making, there may well be a need to have several potential solutions as well as contingency plans in place, and ten brains are better than one. Involve the crew in planning and encourage them to bring new ideas to the table. This will not only lead to more options and better decisions, but also engage and motivate your team and encourage accountability.

Brainstorming is a great way to invite participation, but all too often these are started by someone simply asking “does anyone have any ideas?” Inevitably the same two or three people start talking … over each other! While their enthusiasm is welcome, by the end of the meeting typically only a few people’s voices have been heard.

This is not to say brainstorming can’t be useful, but be strategic when using it. Rather than just listening to ‘he who shouts loudest’, why not grab a pile of post-it notes and ask individuals to write one idea per post-it note, coming up with as many ideas or solutions as possible in a limited timeframe (for instance, five minutes). Without judging any of the ideas, go through them, sort them into common themes, and look for linkages. Encourage the team to build on each other’s ideas and hold back on criticising. A good way to do this is to discourage the use of the word ‘BUT’ when discussing them, replacing it instead with ‘AND’.

If you need more ideas, take a look at the problem from the opposite angle. What will exacerbate it? Once you know that, ‘reverse’ it. Or come up with an outrageous idea, build and reshape it within the group, and you may come up with a creative and potentially workable solution.

Once you have exhausted all possibilities, and not until then, take time to evaluate them together. Look at the pros and cons of the respective ideas. As a team, agree on a plan to take you forward based on the information you have available to you now. Make sure you have contingency plans in place, and have decided when to review progress, including if things change suddenly.

Leading in this time of uncertainty requires a calm, considered, and strategic approach, with much emphasis given to open communication and understanding everyone is navigating in this new territory. Now more than ever your team needs to believe in you as a person, and it’s ok not to have all the answers. This is a time of change, and no one is sure what our tomorrow will look like.

Impact crew is here to support you during this challenging time. Please get in touch to find out how we can help.


Karen Passman of Impact Crew



t: +44 (0)1425 614 419