Being able to deal with ambiguity is absolutely essential if HR wants to remain focused and innovative, says one leading business psychologist.
Discussing this topic with HRD, Graham Winter, psychologist and executive director of Think One Team International, said the new generation of leaders would have to master ambiguity to succeed.
“In the day-to-day cut and thrust of business, it is quite easy to see what mastering ambiguity means for change leaders,” he said. “It’s deciding to move forward when you don’t have the full picture. It’s looking cool, calm and confident when you’ve no idea what’s going to happen.”
There are five steps to take for those who wish to nurture inspiration, provide clarity and find certainty in the uncertain, Winter said.
1) Have some self-awareness
“A list of ideal attributes of a change leader might include being confident, flexible, emotionally stable, focused, engaging, strategic, inventive, and so on. Let’s be realistic. Only a super hero would fit the bill!”
However, Winter said the best change leaders don’t need all of this all the time. Instead, they should display a self-awareness of their strengths and weaknesses while understanding personal tolerances and reactions to pressure.
2) Make careful judgments
“Ambiguity usually means that decisions need to be made (or not made) with less than the complete picture,” Winter said.
While some might be inspired by that adrenaline hit, the true change leader will look for anchors – areas of stability or something close to certainty.
“They’ll ask for what is known, what’s not changing and what can be relied upon. They don’t celebrate ambiguity; they do what can be done to reduce it but they don’t procrastinate for the perfect decision.”
3) Build up resilience
The right mindset is crucial for anyone seeking to survive ambiguity, Winter said. Not everything can be controlled, some decisions will be wrong, and stress is a natural reaction.
“Can you see why traditional leaders struggle to master ambiguity? How difficult it must be when you’ve been trained to see your role as to control and be in control, to make the right decisions all the time and to avoid stress.”
4) Adaptive navigation
With ambiguity, the plan is important. However, Winter added, the plan often changes because circumstances change. Sometimes this can affect speed or direction while at other times the whole strategy will need to be thrown out and redone.
“Change leaders are skilled navigators. They are on the move while counterparts are still planning. They know where they are headed and they know there’s a relationship between things.”
5) Form strong relationships
While traditional management typically relied on status and structure, new change leaders opt for relationships and connections instead, Winter said.
“It’s quantum physics replacing Newtonian physics because in a world of complexity and chaos everything is defined by its relationship to everything else.”
Because change leaders are seen as people leaders, they will strive to hear and understand their team’s fears and concerns.
“Why? Because resistance to change isn’t about the physical tangible things, it’s the fear of loss of control, reputation, autonomy, habit, respect, and so on,” he added.
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