What can you control when the future is unpredictable?

by | Leadership, Planning & Strategy

Welcome to December, where winter has arrived in my part of the far northern hemisphere.

It’s impossible to predict exactly when the snow will arrive and how the winter season will settle in, but every single year snow eventually comes. This year is no exception.

I spend a lot of time walking around in the woods between two lakes, and I love to bet against myself as to which lake will freeze first. While there are some trends (they almost never ice over in the same week), the order in which they freeze is unpredictable.

But the lakes do always freeze.

My predictions about when the temperatures drop, how the lakes will freeze, or the quantity of snow that will eventually fall are horribly imprecise. I can’t predict any of it, and despite access to the best data modeling, neither can the meteorologists.

And while I can’t predict exactly what will happen this winter, there is a great deal within my control that will influence how I feel about whatever happens. The warmth of my boots, the quality of my shovel, the layers of clothing I choose to wear. Lately, I’ve been reminding myself that there is more within my control that it often seems.

When the future is especially unpredictable, it’s easy to feel out of control.

Especially when you lead an organization that people depend on. I teach leaders and teams how to respond to change, with purpose. Without feeling out of control.

Agility is all about becoming more flexible in the areas we typically try to predict and control (plans, timing, etc) and more disciplined in the areas that often get lost in the overwhelm (prioritization, communication, etc.).

Just like my transition into winter, I may not be able to predict the details, but I can predict how I’ll show up this winter.

Organizations can do this too.

A few weeks ago, I asked my LinkedIn community to help me create a list of things leaders can control and predict, even when the future events are entirely unpredictable. The wisdom of crowds did not disappoint.

We came up with a power packed list that I turned into seven things that you, leaders, can control…if you want to.

I sketched the list…and taped it where I’ll have to look at it multiple times a day.

With a few honorable mentions worth noting. You can also predict and control:

  • how transparent you’ll be about decisions
  • whether or not to prioritize
  • if you’ll learn anything along the way

*With many thanks to Pete Anderson, Andi Dickens, and Michelle Heath for their thoughtful contributions.

Take action now:

  • Grab a marker and sticky note.
  • Write down ONE thing that you can predict and choose to control as a leader right now.
  • Pin it up where you’ll actually see it.

Snap a photo and send it to me. You’ll make my day.


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