LISA MCLEOD: How to function in the face of uncertainty

You still have a job. Today.

You still have a dishwasher to unload. For now.

But how do you function in the present, when you're so worried about the future that you can't sleep at night?

We humans like to have things settled. We like to know exactly how everything is going to work out before we can put our heads down and get to work.

But good leadership, just like good parenting or being the top performer in any field, is an exercise that is doing your best in the face of uncertainty.

And it's never been more of a challenge than right now.

It's a weird dynamic. Intellectually, you know that doing your best at work today increases the likelihood that you'll still have a job tomorrow. Making prospects calls improves the chance that your business will remain afloat. And keeping your home running gives you and your family stability in a world of uncertainty.

But emotionally it's hard to engage to muster up the energy to get today's list done, when you don't know what tomorrow may bring.

And if you're a leader, it's a challenge to keep the troops motivated to do the job in front of them, when you can't make them any promises about what will happen down the road, or even Monday morning.

My husband and I lost a family business earlier this year. Before we finally decided to close it, we spent the better part of two years trying to make it work. During that time, we learned a few hard lessons about functioning in the face of uncertainty.

Here are three suggestions for keeping the fear monster at bay. We didn't always practice these, but when we did, we performed better and so did our team.

1. Schedule Angst. Allow yourself 15 minutes of worry time each day, claim it and be done with it. If you catch yourself worrying during other times, write down the worry and tell yourself "I'll think about that during my scheduled worry time."

Scarlett O'Hara was broke and starving when she coined the phrase, "I'll worry about that tomorrow." Yes, she was a character in a novel who had three husbands and wore hoop skirts, but the mantra still works.

2. Choose Planning Over Cheerleading. Fear is a reactionary emotion. But it's hard to stop thinking fear-based thoughts, unless you have something to replace it with. That's where planning comes in. Unlike meaningless rah-rah, a good plan includes timelines and realistic goals. Even if it's just a daily plan, it gives you and your team something to focus on besides the great scary unknown. It might feel arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but it beats panicking. Tape the goals to the fridge or bulletin board, and repeat them when fear comes calling.

3. Refuse the Ripple. Don't allow worry to permeate your personal time. Even if you're facing bankruptcy or foreclosure, you needn't let it ruin every aspect of your life. One of the things that helped my husband and I keep it together when our business was tanking was the knowledge that our children were watching. We didn't want them to think that falling apart was an appropriate response to a crisis. Nor did we want financial issues to be the dominant theme of their childhood.

You can't script tomorrow, but if you show up and do your best today, everybody is happier.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect." Contact her at www.forgetperfect.com.