Now and then I will provide content for those in positions of leadership to consider entitled: Leading Edge

With the increasing use of technology in organizations, and the changing climate of workplace transience or redefinition in some cases, an interesting interview question has been added to the list for mid-level professionals…

How do you “handle” (process or manage) “ambiguity”?

Ambiguity, by definition, denotes instability, doubtfulness; uncertainty of purpose, meaning or intention. I find the question itself more interesting than the variety of answers it may prompt. In my mind, the question posed by the interviewer begets another question: Why does the “ambiguity” exist in the first place? As one who believes that an interview serves to inform both parties involved (the potential employer and the potential employee), the interviewer’s question makes me wonder how effectively the organization communicates with its team members in general.

Explaining and managing ambiguity in a way that is productive and efficient for team members may require some insight for the existing lack of clarity and is not the same as managing change. In my experience, I’ve found that teams often embrace next steps or change more readily when they understand where we are as an organization and how we got there. Our team members may have questions; the answers to which can set them at ease and even influence forward mobility in the direction of the desired change. Team members may also provide helpful insight into process and procedure implementation; taking ownership of the project and managing the change alongside you. 

Organizational change can often be exciting when communicated properly and is almost always inevitable, assuming that growth is your goal. Though uncertainty can be presented in efforts to meet the needs and exceed the expectations of a growing and changing consumer base, when processes and procedures are not thoroughly identified and when effective communication to all internal stakeholders is lacking, there could be unexpected consequences – which include confusion, miscommunication and undue stress for those tasked with carrying out the change.     

Leading Edge:  7 suggestions to decrease tension related to change and foster cohesion  

  1. Maintain Focus: The vision or mission of the organization should remain squarely in focus as change is considered.
  2. Inclusive and Purposeful Meetings: Strategic planning teams should include all internal stakeholders; any teams or departments affected by or expected to support the change. Surround yourself with people who know their areas better than you ever could.
  3. Set Clear Expectations: Internal stakeholder expectations should be discussed and clearly defined during planning sessions. This is time consuming so patience cannot be forfeited.
  4. Posture for Success: Adequate training should be scheduled for all internal stakeholders, especially those responsible for conveying the message to or providing services for the consumer. The more prepared the frontline individuals are, the more secure your consumer base will be.
  5. Consumer Messaging: Positive, clear, concise and consistent messaging should be disseminated via all messaging platforms. This messaging will not only ease market tensions but will attract new business if your change is unique.
  6. Make Time Your Friend: Timelines should be realistic, allowing for thorough due diligence operationally and as it relates to human and financial resources.
  7. Define Success:How do we know when we’ve arrived? What does it look like – specifically?

Instead of settling for ambiguity (which can result in a waste of resources), we as leaders can establish a plan to reduce the anxiety and stress common to change and empower the people around us by making them integral to the strategic planning process. Team… play from the top – down.

One thought on “When Finish Lines Blur and Goal Posts Wobble…

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