Just a month or two ago, it would have sounded like a call to arms for the bland and uninteresting but now, it is a mantra for leaders during crisis.
It isn’t a new train of thought, however. You can look back to 2009, when authors like Barry Conchie and Tom Rath spoke to behavioural predictability as the foundation of trust, or Stevenson and Moldveanu’s work in 1995. More generally, leaders have always sought to maintain stability – they just might not have thought of it as predictability.
But right now, predictability should be the goal for all leaders – educational, organisational or otherwise. Research has even tried to make this a formal, measurable concept - it’s making it happen that can be difficult.
How to make predictability your focus
The current focus on wellbeing is excellent – but leaders also need to think about cementing predictability for the long-term.
1. Predict the future (as best you can)
Leaders need to show their people how they will act in the weeks and months ahead.
That means reiterating your vision, your purpose, and building your plans around that. Let people know what the future of the organisational structure is, whether pay will stay the same, and what the long-term outlook is.
The essential principle here is “tell them before you tell them”. COVID-19 means that many aspects of our life, from travel to distancing to education, will be up in the air for some time. Identify what you can control – and make sure your people know exactly what’s going to happen in that regard.
As Springboard Trust’s new CEO, Dale Bailey has had quite the introduction to our working environment – but has been a great example of predictability during a crisis. When asked about what the concept means to him, he had some clear words – of course – about communication.
“Establishing clear communication and information is important – even when you don’t know the answer, you should be saying so and committing to coming back with a response.”
This is echoed by Dan Grafton, ASB’s South Island Sales and Service Manager and volunteer with Springboard.
“The only way to keep things moving is give lots of clarity – almost overcommunicate what is going on organisationally. Keeping that door open and the information flowing – it means everyone knows what they need to and feels secure.”
Often, there is analysis paralysis about how often, how much, even how verbosely to communicate. But in times of uncertainty, it is almost always better to err on the side of too much.