Good quality management is essential, and great 1-1s are an important part of what makes a good line manager. Great line management can help reduce stress on senior leadership, improve retention, and help scale the business. People feel more engaged, motivated, and excited about their career progression when they’re well supported. This article focuses on the importance of handling uncertainty and complexity in management.

In this sort series of articles we explore some of the key components to great management. Previous articles have covered the following topics:

  1. Creating psychological safety
  2. Asking great questions
  3. Giving and receiving feedback
  4. Handling uncertainty and complexity (today’s article)
  5. Ensuring growth and progression (coming soon)

Handling uncertainty and complexity is a fundamental part of a manager’s role. When done well it improves people’s effectiveness, fosters good relationships, and improves the culture at work.

Great managers don’t need to know everything

Often managers feel that they need to know all the answers; it’s often this skill that has gotten them promoted. The challenge comes when managers are faced with the unknown, or at least where things are very uncertain either for themselves or for their team.

This can be a destablising and unsettling experience for many and often results in frustration or reactive ways of operating. In order to excel as a manager it’s great practice to acknowledge when things are uncertain and to act in appropriate ways.

Learning to respond in an appropriate way

We recommend learning how to use the Cynefin framework to help understand what kind of a situation you might be facing. There are plenty of resources about this framework online. This tool helps managers understand what kind of a situation they might be facing.

Most often we see that managers are acting as if a situation is complicated – in this quadrant of the framework there’s a ‘correct’ way to act; you can work things out if you just look hard enough.

Unfortunately, many management situations are not complicated but are instead complex. This means there is a whole different way of responding. In uncertain and complex situations it’s best to gather data, to take different perspectives, to seek advice and guidance, as opposed to taking action as soon as possible.

But how can we do this with our reports?

Enabling experimentation in those around you

In our training with managers we’ve found it often feels like a great relief for them to learn that it’s totally OK to not know the answer. Here’s a few things you could try when a report brings you a challenge with a high level of uncertainty:


Managers can work effectively in uncertain and complex situations by learning to identify what kind of a challenge they (or their reports) are facing. Once they know that (having used the Cynefin framework) they’re better able to manage appropriately. Withholding solutions and supporting experimental practice can help reports to take action even in very uncertain times.

If you are curious about how Treeka could support great management throughout your organisation then get in touch. We’d love to hear from you. We currently have three new programmes focused on great management.