Leading Forward into the Unknown

Christine Johnson on

I did not realize how agile I could become until I was forced to change quickly and repeatedly this year.

Can you relate to my statement?

Maybe you realized this before this year.  Found that agile could be your middle name.  Don’t get me wrong I have had to flex in the past – create and adjust in what I thought were rapidly changing circumstances – but nothing like this year.  Previously, change may have involved multiple meetings, emails, and conference calls drawn out over months before everyone on the team was comfortable with shifting into a partial unknown.

In 2020, many of us have found that while solid planning and transparent communications still remain important, we have not had the luxury to ponder changes long enough to flush out what we think are all of the possible scenarios. (Do we ever really get to a definitive point anyway?) Or where time allows our comfort level to catch up with the strategy.

This year, days and months turned into hours and days.  And change plans have migrated based on flux in our communities, states, and as a nation.  I refuse to spend time reading anything that was written in early 2020 about predictions for this year because they’re obsolete.  No one predicted an unemployment rate of 15% or a drop of GDP near 33% in a quarter.  No one predicted a pandemic that would put business and personal activities of the world on pause to try and control this unseen virus that still proves to be more nimble than our practices.

Professional Agility in Action

For one aspect of my professional work, I had to implement and co-lead an eight-week nontraditional intern experience for six students in June and July.  The leader I worked alongside told me in early April that our program would go on and we would figure it out along the way.

And we did.  Just like many of you have.

It wasn’t easy.  From cancellations to moving to virtual environments to worrying about keeping our small group safe when we did meet, I faced challenges that were not listed in the job’s description nor ones that I had the time to mentally prepare for.  I ran into unknowns – first with a complete lack of certainty and confidence and then gaining speed from each decision I made – whether it was the best one, an action that got us by, or one that required extra work.  I found some comfort jumping into unknowns once I realized constant change and minimal information were my only consistencies.

Lessons Learned

I offer three pieces of advice as we lead forward with continuing unknowns.

  • Embrace decision making with less than optimal information. Recognize that some days you may re-think your decisions.
  • Know where to look for resources. And use them.
  • Celebrate the mini-wins and successes. Without our own personal recognition of achievement, we continue negative self-dialogue and are less likely to recognize the achievement of others.

I wish I was writing this as an ending to an ordeal.  Who knows when this will conclude.  A colleague of mine invited me to think about how great the young people of today are going to be able to lead through ambiguity and chaos and be ready to make positive changes.  I agree with her 100%.

Think about how everyone of us who leads at work or at home have improved our own leadership skills even though we might not see it now.  I invite you to ponder on this for a moment today and give yourself a high-five or fist-pump.  You deserve it!

Image Credit: Pixabay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *