I started my career in engineering design and development, learning how to solve complex problems. For a while I moved into software, learning how to get useful value from smart technology. I’ve spent the majority of my career consulting and coaching, after realising that the biggest challenges in technology and business all have people at their heart. And I’ve learned that, while there is good advice out there, it’s often hard to find practical ways to apply it to the challenges we face when disruptions hit.
I decided a long time ago that needed to change, hence I’ve been researching and experimenting with this stuff for 30 years now. Through all the fads and theories, there are some things that have endured. We are learning more about solutions, and I’m always tinkering and evolving, but the core aspects of the territory we have to travel are always the same, because they are part of being human. They show up every time we do.
Life gets messy because business has lots of moving parts and dependencies. The individual elements seem clear enough, but getting them to work together in the face of changing contexts creates ambiguity and uncertainty. When we handle that badly, we try to ignore it, or to control for every eventuality, and neither work. Handling uncertainty well means paying careful attention to what’s actually happening, focusing on clear intentions, and then essentially taking things one step at a time and learning as you go. It’s not what we’re used to. It takes focus and practice, and it can be learned.
Messy situations surface peoples’ different ideas and perspectives. The differences create tensions, and it gets harder to resolve them well. When we handle tensions badly, we either avoid the conversations, or defend our current assumptions and position. Handling tensions well means listening carefully, both to understand the other views in the conversation, and to look for things you didn’t know which might change your ideas. It also means looking for ways to align actions with other people, even if you don’t agree with them. It’s not what we’re used to. It takes focus and practice, and it can be learned.
In the busyness of dealing with uncertainties and differences, we can run out of space for anything else. Especially paying attention to ourselves, our energy, and the things we really care about. We get stretched, and when we get stretched we either pretend everything’s ok when it’s not, or get stuck rerunning habits and excuses. Handling stretch well means noticing it in ourselves, pressing pause so we can step back and refocus, and expanding the range of options we give ourselves. In a world of confusion, the place we have most influence over is always close in, but it’s not what we’re used to. It takes focus and practice, and it can be learned.
I’ve learned, both personally and with clients, that working with uncertainty, difference and stretch requires both art and craft. It’s easy when everything is clear, people agree and you are in your comfort zone. But life has it’s ups and downs. Things come in and out of focus. Uncertainty, difference and stretch are facts of life. Let me show you some useful ways to handle them well.