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 The Lift Effect takes executives on a ride of a lifetime, using a network of people, experiences and processes to lift leadership performance. 

- Clare Goodman

The Lift Effect Blog

The role of choice and control in uncertainty and ambiguity

NEW buttons So how do leaders feel about uncertainty and novelty? It’s an interesting question and I decided to test out some of my clients. I chose a simple questionnaire from Todd Kashdan, a Curiosity Researcher, that looked at two levels;

  • Whether an individual seeks out novelty
  • How an individual feels about embracing change when it is presented.

These are two very different dimensions. The data showed that the ten senior leaders surveyed showed a high response to seeking out novelty. However they scored 30% lower on their willingness and comfort to embrace change when it is presented. In interpreting this very simple assessment, it seemed that individuals are much more comfortable in seeking change, novelty and uncertainty then when they have no option. The common factor that seems to emerge is the perception of choice and control. In seeking out novelty and the unknown the leader perceives that he/she has a degree of choice and control, when change is thrust upon you, it is easy to perceive that you have no choice or control.

Although this research would not stand the rigours of any University worth it’s salt, it’s an interesting thought that I have used to help my coaching clients;

  • Reflecting on what works – asking a client to think about times when they have sought out novelty and uncertainty, and helping them to think about how they did that, what personal strategies worked.
  • Building a link – using these past memories to help them to think about how they can approach their uncertain situation differently
  • Creating a perception of choice and control – identifying key aspects of their work or situation that they have a choice over or some degree of control and using a process of reframing

Incidentally I also asked three meditation teachers to complete the questionnaire to see how their approach would differ from the senior leaders. Indeed they scored 15% lower than the leaders in seeking out novelty and uncertainty, however their score for embracing change was almost the same to their score for novelty. The two domains under investigation did not show any significant difference, so they felt equally as comfortable with seeking novelty and uncertainty and embracing change.

More work to do obviously, but an interesting mini research project.

Clare is researching Ambiguity and Uncertainty and the Impact of Leadership Effectiveness for her Doctorate.

 

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Leadership lessons from leaders in high risk and ambiguous environments

High risk and ambiguous situations – perhaps I mean mining or banking, in fact there are great leadership lessons for corporate leaders from the fire service. These leaders face highly dangerous and ambiguous environments and have to make life and death decisions quickly and under pressure. So what can corporate leaders learn from leaders in high reliability organisations?

Benjamin Baran and Cliff Scott were curious and conducted exploratory research in 2010 on the Fire Service in the US. The researchers collected near-miss reports from stations across the US and analysed the results for key themes and patterns. This was an inductive process and they were able to identify a number of strategies that these leaders used effectively in highly ambiguous and dangerous situations.

They found that leaders were able to organise the ambiguity through;

  • Framing - leaders were able to make sense of the environment for others and provide direction setting and a degree of knowledge
  • Heedful interrelating - leaders were able to communicate with others by clear verbal communication, along with role modelling desired behaviours and role acting which is behaving in alignment with role expectations. Another key component was trust.
  • Adjusting – the ability to rapidly adjust behaviours due to changing conditions

The researchers found that this mixture of behaviours, actions and processes were linked to managing high risk situations with lower numbers of injuries or casualties. When there were gaps in these components the injury rate increased.

Future leaders need to be able to lead confidently in ambiguous and complex situations where they may not know all the answers. They would do well to reflect on the leadership strategies of these firefighters.

Article;

  • Organizing Ambiguity: A grounded theory of leadership and sensemaking within dangerous contexts by Benjamin Baran and Cliff Scott, Organizational Science, University of North Carolina – 2010 Military Pyschology

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Thinking in Perspective; a leadership challenge

Introduction

This article focuses on providing leaders with key insights and tools to improve their own performance and that of their teams.Emotional regulation is fundamental to leadership. In Business Schools the focus shifting from the importance of getting the task done to how to motivate and engage others to achieve outcomes. The need for leaders to understand their own emotional drivers and how to manage their arousal levels has never been more important. With that in mind this summary essay provides insight on how leaders can use the knowledge gained by Neuroscientists to manage their emotions. (more…)

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