What Starts in Vagueness, Stays in Vagueness

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July 2011

What Starts in Vagueness, Stays in Vagueness
Last August I was talking with a bank president who told me that one of his top executives, with 31 years of experience came to him and announced, “I just want you to know, we officially do not know if we are writing mortgages correctly anymore.” With the abundance of regulatory ambiguity (ironically coupled with mounting compliance pressure) the truth was they no longer knew what they knew. Not with certainty. The president and I discussed the good old days when change was the big challenge. We light-heartedly reminisced about the bygone era of not long ago when the challenge was to figure out, who moved our cheese. Remember?

The days of change have for many organizations and their leaders been replaced by days of uncertainty. Although change and uncertainty are related (will likely show up at the same family reunion this summer), there is a difference. Change can often be marked by tangible or visible events. Uncertainty is marked by a dis-ability to see/understand present conditions and future steps. The skills needed for leading in change become magnified (marked by magnificent need) when trying to lead in uncertainty.

When leading in change, the effective leader reaches out. When leading in uncertainty, the effective leader reaches in. In times of change people need information/communication. In times of uncertainty, people need clarity. And they’ll do just about anything to get clarity even if it means constructing a present state derived from conjecture. Most people do not accept disequilibrium for themselves and being immersed in a constant state of vagueness is a powerful push factor on talent within the organization (not to mention it proves to be a productivity inhibitor).

#1 Competency for Leading in Uncertainty – The Ability to Deliver Clarity

The extraordinary leader leads others out of a state of vagueness intentionally. What starts in vagueness will indeed stay in vagueness without conscious and skilled leadership effort. Delivering clarity of understanding as well as clarity of expectation is the key to behaviorally beginning to rid the environment of vagueness. A leader reaches in to another by helping those he/she leads understand how they are dealing with the prevailing uncertainty. Helping another identify their role and reactions to some of uncertainty’s realities is clarity that is powerfully impactful. The effective leader also delivers much needed clarity by being specific about their needs and expectations. The effective leader is able to articulate their thoughts, feelings and expectations in such a thorough, illustrative and commanding way that others become energized by their interactions with the leader. People respond to a clear voice and a clear vision. You can not only bet on it, but you can take it to the bank!

The ability to deliver clarity also must happen strategically… see you in September.


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