Navigating Unchartered Waters by Steering Your Own Ship


Image by Anele Biscarra

Have you ever found yourself (literally or figuratively) in unchartered, rocky waters? Perhaps there was a feeling of not knowing what was going to happen next, how big the waves were going to hit, or not knowing when the rockiness would end. While you may not have been able to control ocean waves itself, there may have been ways to “steer” the ship–what you had control over, to an extent, was your own personal reaction to what was happening and how you were going to navigate and thrive.

Some of you may feel that the uncertainty happening on campus currently is similar to the rocky waters. Bob Miglani, author of the Washington Post bestseller book “Embrace the Chaos”states that we all live in uncertainty, change, and turbulence–both in and outside of work.

In his YouTube clip entitled “How to Deal with Change at Work: 3 Steps to Success,” Miglani outlines 3 key points:

  • Accept that change happens. Accept that you can only control yourself. Recognize what you have control over (i.e., your own projects, how you treat other colleagues, the help you provide students) and concentrate on that. This will provide you a sense of moving forward and feeling less stuck due to external changes and decisions outside of your control.
  • Try to not overthink. Miglani states that this leads to self-doubt and apprehension for future. Our minds our often wired to go to the negative, and tries to get certainty but not going to get that. As much as we would all like to predict what is exactly going to happen in the future, we simply cannot.
  • Take action–do something, participate, create something new. Miglani argues that during uncertainty, this is the best time to make a contribution in the here and now. Setting one new goal and going after it will help give you clarity to move forward.

If you are a manager or supervisor, here are 3 things that you can do, starting today:

  • Reflect on your own personal experience outside of work with uncertainty and change. How did you ride that “wave?” Think about what resilience strategies you used in the past, and how you can bring that same sense to your team. 
  • In your 1:1 meetings, ask staff members how they are feeling about the recent organizational uncertainties. Brainstorm as their thought partner about what they have control over in their wheelhouse.
  • Dedicate 5 minutes during a staff meeting for staff members to think about what they will “take action” in regards to departmental goals. This will incite new ideas and contributions that may not have been thought of before.

For further resources, check out the following:






Through the Unknown, Comes Transparency

In our September 17, 2015 blog post, we posed the question of “Is It Possible to Embrace Change?” We shared that Jason Clarke, the founder of Minds at Work in Australia, gave a great Tedx talk and explained how we can embrace change in the workplace, even when there may be resistance to it.

This week, we received an email from Vice Chancellor Harry Le Grande about the budget process for our division, including details about how we are awaiting our specific budget targets and guidelines for how we budget our funds.

Naturally, there may be feelings of uncertainty among ALL staff members at this time. Many of us may have unanswered questions; however, at this time, there are not yet answers to all of the questions. This is when communicating with transparency can help in the process of change and uncertainty.

Transparency is critical to staff engagement and trust. Being willing to share openly and authentically–even the difficult or limited information–demonstrates to staff that the team trusts one another, input is valued, and all staff are viewed as true strategic partners in driving the success of the Division forward. As Harry said, “Your creative thinking, resourcefulness, and resiliency has led us to be seen as leaders not just here on campus but across our industry. If we can apply that same talent and skill to the challenges before us, I know we’ll be well served.”

Transparency can also pave the way for greater effectiveness as a team. Forbes lists five powerful things that happen when a leader is transparent:

  • Problems are solved faster because the team knows the true variables you’re trying to solve for.
  • Teams are built more easily because employees can more openly share their perspectives, allowing supervisors to better match employees to the right assignments, teams, and opportunities.
  • Relationships grow authentically because colleagues share their true selves and are open with each other, helping to avoid misunderstandings and unproductive conflicts.
  • People begin to promote trust in their leader. They not only trust the leader more themselves, they’re more likely to push others toward trust and generosity of spirit toward that leader.
  • Higher levels of performance emerge because of all of the above.

For further information, please attend the February 12th, 2016 SA Roundtable that will be held from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at the Unit 1 All Purpose Room.

To learn more on the importance of transparency and addressing change in the workplace, check out these articles:

4 Reasons You Need to Embrace Transparency in the Workplace

Jason Clarke’s Ted Talk on “Embracing Change”

10 Tips for Handling Change in the Workplace