Dealing with uncertainty in changing times

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Wayne Shaw
  • 564th Missile Squadron commander
Few things cause more turmoil and emotional distress as uncertainty. Most people can deal with almost any situation, news or course of action as long as they know reasonably well what they are working towards. What drives them crazy is uncertainty. There are obviously varying degrees of uncertainty in our everyday lives and if you think about it, most of the things that worry you have some element of uncertainty at its core. There is usually a correlation between the degree of uncertainty and the level of your worry. 

Okay, so there is uncertainty and it makes people worry. What does that have to do with your job or getting the mission done? Well actually, quite a lot. If there is uncertainty that has a direct impact on people's lives, then that uncertainty is likely to occupy a large portion of their attention. This distracts them from focusing their entire attention on the task at hand, which can lead to mistakes, poor performance and, ultimately, mission impact. This is perhaps the perfect example of the relationship between people and mission. 

So what can we do about uncertainty? How do we take care of people so they can take care of the mission? I think there are three things that are effective in dealing with uncertainty - communicate, communicate, communicate! 

Nothing addresses uncertainty as directly as information. Even if you don't know all the answers, it is imperative to communicate what you do know. Create deliberate opportunities for people to ask questions, clarify rumors and express their concerns. Keep it on the "front-burner," maintain constant updates, even if there is no new information. Above all else, maintain the maximum amount of transparency. This is not the time to horde information or play "I've got a secret." 

In today's changing Air Force, uncertainty is something many of us have to deal with. As you may have heard, there has been talk of change in the 564th Missile Squadron, and as commander of the 564th, I have some recent experience with this topic. I learned a lot of what I've shared here as we move through the process. There is still uncertainty that we deal with everyday, but there is one thing I am absolutely certain about - the professionals of "Deuce" will proudly accomplish our mission in a manner befitting our rich heritage and legacy.