UnleashWD: Leading Through Times of Uncertainty with Distributed Teams and Contingency Plans

BY Brandin Bursa
3/19/2020 - COVID-19

In an effort to continue to try and provide our members with resources that are easy to consume, and relevant to their own businesses, we are taking some information that has been developed and trying to “pare it down” as much as possible so you can easily find the identified portions that are most beneficial.

One resource that has been created in the wake of the COVID-19 virus is a video series developed by Dirk Beveridge from UnleashWD. In this particular video, “Leading Through Times Of Uncertainty With Distributed Teams And Contingency Plans”, Dirk interviews Joe McNamara from Impact USA. Impact USA focuses on helping organizations develop resilient leaders. Joe is a decorated former Marine who spent eight years as an Infantry Officer which included two tours of duty in Afghanistan. When he returned stateside to Paris Island, his assignment was training the Marine Corps drill instructors along with handling their leadership training. These experiences offer Joe a unique perspective when addressing business leadership needs.

We have taken some time to pull some of the highlights and identify some important items that were covered, and then time stamp the video for easy access to everything that was covered in the video.


Leaders exist for gray areas. Decisions that are black and white are easy to make. Leaders must live in the gray because that is where uncertainty lives. Steady guidance and the ability to make tough decisions during times of adversity are critical to the success of any organization. Setting a strategic direction during challenges is certainly a gray area decision.

Once a strategic direction has been set, solicit feedback from the trusted leaders on your team. In many cases, these team leaders will have better ideas than you proposed. This is where ego must take a back seat. True leaders will identify the superior idea and make the decision to act upon it.

Being humble within a leadership role is essential. You must demonstrate that you don’t have all the answers all the time. That is called being human. Your team members will recognize this, and it will inevitably build trust and increase buy-in to the strategic direction being set forth.

Remaining calm in the face of adversity and not showing strain are important factors to help ease the tensions of your team. Focus on the facts, eliminate the noise. Understand what key aspects of the business will truly be impacted and what resources are available to combat the looming threat.

Times of conflict and danger cause us to reflect on if we were prepared as an organization. Are small and mid-level leaders properly prepared in addition to top level leadership? These small and mid-level leaders are on the ground floor of your organization and often have a pulse of the team. They are invaluable information resources.

While handling the present, the future must be considered too. How can the organization be better prepared moving forward for the next challenge? During times of crisis, an end-of-day review done by leaders allows you to see what was done well and what could use improvement. Keep it simple, fill in details later. This gives you a roadmap to work from and an action plan for future disruptions.

During times of uncertainty, one idea is to have two different groups of leaders. One group to developing ideas, plans and solutions. The other group is there to punch holes in those ideas and solutions. This assures that the final decisions collectively reached have been fully vetted. This also allows top level leaders a chance to look at things from a high-level perspective. High level perspective is very important when remote work is required.

Remote work brings challenges for organizations and leaders. Leadership is a contact sport. Without the ability to interact, leaders need to be mindful of the changes that come with that.

Over communication is almost necessary. Research and find the proper mediums to interact with your remote team. Slack, Monday, Zoom and Skype are just a few tools that can help shrink the distance gap. Use closed loop communication to assure everyone knows what their tasks are. Make sure you solicit feedback from your team to assure you are communicating effectively. Be adaptable.

Among all this, don’t lose sight of your team’s human side. They are individuals filled with emotions and uncertainty. Show genuine care and concern about your individual team members, not just from a work perspective. At the end of the day we are all individuals working as a collective team.

Remember, you were put in a leadership position because of your ability to operate in the gray areas. You may just find a silver-lining that propels your organization through this challenge and far into the future.

Video Timestamps:

3:40 – Called to Lead

5:20 – Reaction when lives are at risk

11:20 – Being a humble leader

18:00 – Opportunities to shine

20:00 – Punching holes in plans

21:55 – Problem with communication is the illusion it’s happening

About UnleasedWD's video series

At UnleashWD our purpose is to unleash the human spirit.  And during this unprecedented time we felt compelled to support the UnleashWD tribe and our association partners with the right mix of inspiration and timely, relevant information.  We reached out to our network of wickedly smart subject matter experts to provide the sessions below.  In the words of one attendee - “This was amazing.  You’ve changed our day tomorrow.  We’ll be on the attack!”

We are a design, innovation, and strategy firm who transforms legacy distributors into nimble and innovative market leaders.  What you are about to experience is designed to unleash your spirit so like the individual above decided, you too will be on the attack!

We are here to support you through these next few months and beyond.  If we can do anything for you please reach out directly to either of us.

Dirk Beveridge                      Bethany Hepler
Founder                                VP of Design
dirk@unleashwd.com           bethany@unleashwd.com