As a manager, you’re never going to possess all the information at your fingertips that you wish. You’ll need to make tough decisions on the fly that require some guesswork.
Ambiguity makes us uncomfortable. Understandably, we dread forging ahead without a clear grasp of all relevant facts or a command of the specific factors that pertain to a rapidly changing situation.
Yet the most successful managers are also resilient leaders. They accept ambiguity without flinching. If they’re unsure who’s at fault or uncertain about cause-effect relationships, they investigate with an open mind and draw the best conclusion they can.
The next time you face ambiguity, separate what you know from what you don’t know. Use phrases such as, “Let’s review what’s fixed and certain, and what’s subject to change” or “Let’s identify all the gray areas and whether we can accept so much uncertainty.”
When you acknowledge the ambiguities you face, employees embrace yourmore enthusiastically. They’re probably grappling with the same fuzziness in weighing action plans, so your forthrightness can make everyone feel more comfortable.
Addressing the causes of ambiguity can help. Work with your employees to list all the variables at play. Discuss timetables for when you can expect to gather the necessary data to fill these holes. That way, everyone can systemically integrate facts and certainties as they become known—and slowly remove remaining traces of ambiguity.