Thriving in Ambiguity

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We live in an environment steeped in ambiguity. Change and uncertainty rule these days. From new trends in fashion, politics, and technology, to new navigation methods for anything from driving on the road to ordering laundry detergent, change has become the norm. While some of us look forward to the next great shift, the majority of people thrive in steady, predictable circumstances. After years of learning that efficient and effective life habits come from things like setting and keeping to a budget, using a time management system, organizing the folders and information in your workspace or laptop, not to mention being discouraged from coloring outside the lines in childhood, how can we blame these uniformity seekers? You can see the inherent paradox of tried and true, stable systems verses the creative chaos of ambiguity.

High Velocity leaders are comfortable with managing paradox. These leaders thrive in ambiguity.They also recognize that there is a certain % of people who disdain chaos and love to follow a tried and true system.

How can we, as leaders, exist in the paradox of thriving in ambiguity while instilling confidence in people by clearing the fog of the unknown?

Confidence comes when we can see ourselves performing in a new reality, a new structure, and a new set of rules. Confidence is fostered in an environment where people can take decisive action and gain momentum, thus proving to themselves that they can be successful in any situation. And confidence is bolstered by praise and recognition along the way.

5 methods HVL’s help their people thrive in ambiguity:

1. Engage your people in conversations about possibilities. Help them unleash their inner artist and exercise their muscle of imagination. According to Dr. Stephanie Carlson, an expert on childhood brain development, adults are groomed to exercise self-control and seek uniformity while children spend as much as 2/3 of their time in non-reality or imagination. Pablo Picasso said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

2. Distill the future vision down into tangible, visible goals with clear action steps. The more lucent the activities involved in moving toward the vision are, the more likely people are to understand, accept, and be empowered to act. We know that consistent action kills fear.

3. Praise and recognize momentum. Identify and celebrate the small steps along the way down the sometimes fuzzy path of the unknown.

4. Know your tendencies as a leader. Leaders who thrive in ambiguity are energized by the chance to pivot and try a new approach. But if you get lost in the enthusiasm of trying a new method and passionately attempt to force a new path on people before you prepare them, you will be slowed down by the resistance and confusion that comes when the majority of followers encounter ambiguity.

5. Protect your people impulsive pivots in thinking or in plans. While pivoting is often a sound strategy, in practice time must be given to helping people see what caused a desire to pivot, what the new end goal is, and how their past efforts have contributed to success.

Using these strategies, the paradox of ambiguity can successfully be managed when you find yourself working with those who thrive on certainty and stability.