Certainty is a firm conviction that something is absolutely true.
As a leader you need to be able to predict the future.
Professional futurists like my friend Dan Burrus do this for others. However, as leaders we need to be able to be futurists ourselves. Dan has a great post on things to think about to better anticipate the future. One thing Dan talks about to create what he calls Flash Foresight is to begin with what you are certain about to form the basis of your strategy. Example: The supply of a natural resource will be depleted in 10 years. Thus, creation of a synthetic alternative will be a big win.
We operate on results. Do something. Impact results.
Doing something usually requires investment of time and dollars. Leadership requires that during the implementation of something new we need to predict the future at this transactional level as well.
The Certainty Scale
As a leader how often do you operate from a position of certainty about that future? 100% of the time? 50% of the time? Never?
Will the positive impacts on the business outweigh the negatives if we implement a new ERP system?
Will consolidation really give us greater focus and what tangible results can we expect?
Will expansion into the Southwest give us the bump we need from baby boomers?
These are the types of questions you deal with every day. Strategy is one thing but all of the items associated with implementing the strategy add layers of uncertainty. What is it that you can really be certain about?
Can you be too certain?
A scale regarding how confident you are in anything at this tactical implementation level might look something like this:
A total lack of confidence in pulling something off puts us on the far left of the scale – Impossible. It’s natural for an idea to move from Impossible to Maybe, and then on to Possible.
We can potentially get into trouble as we move into certainty. Of course, we’ve all met leaders in the Rigid category. They are so certain that in the face of all logic saying something won’t work, they ignore the facts and push forward anyway. We won’t spend any time there. They aren’t reading this post.
Let’s face it. Perception is important for a leader. How you portray where you are on the scale makes a difference. People are paying attention. Sometimes a leader may portray a position on the scale a bit closer to certainty than they really feel. The art of leadership is knowing when to do this. The skill of leadership is putting things in place to validate your certainty.
One of the biggest failings is a lack of analysis. It’s critical to fund the proper analysis in order to validate approach and create the flexibility necessary for success. We’ll spend a great deal of time discussing better analysis in future articles.
I think the best position on the scale is – Certain for the moment but flexible.
The challenge is getting to this comfort level so that you can make others comfortable with the innovation and resulting changes.