For those of you who know me well, you may know that I love structure. I love rules and processes you can follow. I love planning, executing plans and having predictable outcomes. Ambiguity is something I struggle with.
In my previous corporate life, I remember being trained to perform coding exercises in order to retrieve information from a database. This seemed straightforward. There were codes, processes and rules, which I could easily understand. But during that training, it was explained to me that these “rules” had evolved over time and that some rules applied for certain time periods of the database, and didn’t apply at all for other time periods. Many times I found that the rule was “It depends”. This did not go over well for me at that time.
During one of my particularly frustrating coding projects, I remember responding to my boss’s “It depends” answer with a “Just give me a rule and I’ll follow it” tirade!
Looking back now, I realize how limiting my thinking was. Coaching has taught me a lot about ambiguity, how to deal with it and how to embrace it at times.
This past weekend, I attended an ICF (International Coach Federation) Global Leadership Forum in Atlanta where over 50 countries were represented. One of my goals for the weekend was to walk away with a vision statement for the ICF regions from the Global organization so that I could align our region and create our own strategic plan (using the One Page Business Plan of course). Oh yeah, did I mention that I like structure?
Guess what? I didn’t get it. No regional vision statement and some ambiguity. I took a deep breath. As you can imagine, being a global organization of 26,000 members and 117 Chapters in 57 countries means that there is a lot of different needs, different challenges and differing visions of success. Here we go into my favorite place of ambiguity again. There must be something I’m supposed to learn here.
When I took my deep breath and made the decision to just listen to the discussions surrounding the varying needs of different regions, I learned so many things that I would have missed if they would have just given us the vision statement and sent me on my way. The process of getting there is very important, and sometimes messy and time consuming. But the outcome is well worth it.
Instead of a vision statement, I walked away with:
- New international relationships
- A stronger alliance within my own region
- New ideas to strengthen our region and chapters
- And so much more.
Now, we’re still going to set our strategic plan as a region—don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to totally abandon structure. But we’re also going to create the space for co-creation of that strategy with some ambiguity. How’s that for clarity? I’m looking forward to the possibilities.
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