Sudden and Unpredictable Change, Part 4: Unanswered Questions provide valuable information to the leader

At the moment, there are probably no one who do not have questions in their minds regarding the uncertain situation in the world. In the workplace, leaders think about the impact of the situation on their own business – what affects us, what doesn’t, and how we are doing in rapid change. Employees think about the same things, information is needed and expected. At the same time, many are wondering how I can help, what I can influence, and what I can’t influence. You can find tools for this in the second post in our blog series Balance the work and make room for change

The question can scare the leader

What if management has no answers? What can leaders say then, or would it be easier to avoid questions altogether? By no means. The head must not be hidden but leaders must now be present and ready to discuss. Unanswered questions have become very valuable and contain a lot of information. However, that information can only be accessed by daring to listen. To a question that has no answer, you may well say “I can’t answer, I don’t know”. The leader can also ask questions himself, someone else can know the answer. It does not make a leader weak or bad, on the contrary, it speaks of empathy, humanity and, at best, strengthens community cohesion as well as psychological security.

A question without an answer rarely ends the conversation on the wall. It, in turn, can challenge you to look at it from a new perspective and therefore you can always thank the questioner for the question as well. The leader’s job is to be involved in the discussion and identify information from there, e.g., what are the concerns of employees related to their own work, what questions and issues have they heard from customers or other players in the industry, what have other players in the industry done and why etc. The questions also help identify different signals, especially weak signals.

What is particularly worth considering now?

Set aside time for discussion: It is important that there are the right channels for discussion. Priorities for their use may vary, but now that rapid changes are underway, there must be enough time for face-to-face interaction. If the team is scattered, it’s a good idea to set aside time for meetings online. In our previous blog, Leader, make sure you’re on the pulse of your organization we released a tool to support this. 

Tolerate silence in encounters: Although hurry and pressure are felt in everyday life, it is good to tolerate silence in encounters. You can also be together in silence. The mere fact that a person recognizes that he is not alone strengthens well-being. 

Make sure everyone is heard: Give time for the encounters and make sure everyone has some way to participate in the joint discussion. Encourage for participation. Together, think about the right channels for interaction in addition to face-to-face meetings. 

Accept different feelings: There are four different phases in a crisis – the shock phase, the reaction phase, the processing phase, and the reorientation phase. Accept and recognize that people are going through these steps at different rates. Therefore, it is important that there are enough opportunities to discuss and encounter. 

Whatever you do as a leader now, the most important thing is to be available. Also take care of yourself as you are needed! 

Read more

We encourage you to read our entire blog series, where you will find tools and tips to support your leadership. 

Sudden and unpredictable change, part 1: Leader, make sure you’re on the pulse of your organization  

Sudden and Unpredictable Change, Part 2: Balance the work and make room for change 

Sudden and Unpredictable Change, Part 3: Strengthen People’s Ability to Change Activities 

Writers

Petra Alijärvi, consultant. Petra is a disaster work professional who has learned around the world that there is always reason to have plan B and C. 

Minka Keinänen, consultant. Minka has worked at CCEA for several years on change management projects. 

Karoliina Krook, senior consultant. Karoliina is an experienced change and communication professional who is accustomed to acting quickly even in unpredictable situations