Show you can handle ambiguity!
Can you handle ambiguity?
Handle ambiguity – “ambiguity; the quality of being open to more than one interpretation; inexactness.”
Many of us have been educated in environments where what mattered most were the facts. You had to get the facts right. When you needed to make a decision, you gathered the facts and then evaluated them. Great care and attention was given to gathering very precise facts. You were not expected to handle ambiguity!
In the present world, gathering exact facts should be easier than ever before. The problem is, though, that the world has become a much complex place. It is full of data but not all that data has been processed into good information. Meanwhile decisions usually need to be made quickly.
So, we find ourselves working with incomplete sets of facts, that may conflict and that make you feel they must be unreliable. And often that is just what they might be! But still you have to make that decision. You find yourself having to go with what you have got.
In management, the more senior you become, the more likely you are to be making decisions with ambiguous information. For many professionals, doing that lies at the very heart of what they do.
Recognize the reality of decision making today,
More and more employers and recruiters are looking for candidates with an ability to handle ambiguity. Employees who can manage ambiguity are likely to be welcome in large, complex, organisations that are subject to change or reform. But also they are needed in SMEs, particularly in the digital world.
The ability to handle ambiguity goes with confidence in your own judgment and a willingness to live with risk. If you are used to going through change and have learned how to cope and thrive in a changing environment, you have probably learned to handle ambiguity.
If you are preparing for a job interview, be prepared to be asked about occasions when you had to deal with confusion or uncertainty. When did you have to make a decision without having all the facts? When did you find yourself having to act in an unclear situation? What did you learn? If you feel that you could have coped with a situation you faced better, say so, and explain what you learned. Prepare to be asked how you cope in a crisis. Any crisis is likely to throw up uncertainty. How did you cope and what skills did you use? If you go to an assessment centre that has an in tray exercise, be prepared to adapt your plan of action to cope with new information that lands in your email inbox.
Risk surrounds ambiguity. Make sure you always have a back-up plan and think about how you will handle things if you have got it wrong.
When presented with any problem think through what you need to make a decision and the time available to you. What is the compromise you are prepared to make, if you need to take action quickly? How risky is your plan and how will you know if things are going wrong? How will you handle the fallout and move to your back up plan. Move quickly and with confidence, but always know your risks.
Life has always come with uncertainty. Now, it is time for you to learn to work with ambiguity!
Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link