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  • Writer's pictureGrant 'Axe' Rawlinson

Finding certainty amongst the uncertainty

COVID-19 has thrust teams into an environment many are completely unfamiliar with.

There are three questions many of you may be struggling:

  1. Will we make it through this?

  2. If we do make it, how long will it take?

  3. If we do make it through where will we end up?

Grant 'Axe' Rawlinson setting out to row across the Tasman Sea

These are exactly the same questions I am faced with every time I push off from shore on my human-powered journeys.

My life involves actively seeking out these extremely uncertain environments.

This is where I feel most alive.

I love the mental challenge of dealing with this uncertainty.

But I am not going to lie. 

They are very, very tough conditions to operate in.

So I would like to share how I deal with extreme uncertainty

My golden principle when making decisions through extreme uncertainty is:

Don’t try to predict the future and make perfect decisions.

Instead focus on aligning ourselves and our team around three critical decision alignment drivers.

  1. Our team purpose

  2. Our team values

  3. Our team strategy

Our team purpose inspires us and gives 100% certainty about what direction we are ALL heading, over above our own individual needs and aspirations.

Our values give us certainty about how we behave along this journey, especially when no one is watching. 

Our strategy gives us certainty about what we need to do technically to achieve our goals

Put together the three decision alignment drivers give our team a guiding north star.

They give us a psychological safety net that we are making ‘the right’ decisions that are 100% aligned with our teams.

They take the pressure off trying to ‘guess’ the future

They put a feeling of control back into our own hands.

And they guide our decision making and tell us what to do when very often we don’t know what to do.

My purpose in life is to undertake exploratory, human-powered journeys that contribute to a brighter future for our planet. On my expeditions, when times are tough and I am hundreds of kilometres from shore, freezing cold and have just been capsized in a storm

I always refer to my purpose. It reminds me the fundamental reason why am I here and it gives me huge inspiration, mental strength and direction.

I also have three powerful values which guide my decision making on expeditions.

I prioritise these to remove ambiguity and increase clarity in my decision making process:

  1. Every decision is made so that I will come back home safely to my loved ones

  2. Every step of the journey is to be made completely by human power

  3. I use as little support as practically possible

These values are very effective in helping guide me to making effective decisions that are authentic and afterwards I feel proud of.

My Purpose and Values never change.

But my strategy is more fluid.

As the situations change, sometimes I need to tweak or adjust the strategy.

But it’s always made in accordance with my purpose and values.

The biggest mistake teams can make in times of great uncertainty is focusing too much on trying to make perfect decisions and giving turn-by-turn ‘roadmaps’ to their teams to follow.

We must face the fact that we will never get it right all of the time in uncertain environments. The future is so difficult to predict that our roadmaps will soon be invalid. So instead of a roadmap, bring certainty back into the way your teams make decisions. By aligning them around a common direction, using your purpose, values and strategy to guide and empower their decision making. And give them a sense of control back

Good luck!

Captain Axe.

PS: I work with teams and leaders to define, refine and shine their purpose, values and strategy, so they can be activated within their teams to drive highly aligned and adaptable team decision making cultures. This article is a very concise and succinct overview, which does not delve into the process itself of alignment. For more information please contact me at

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