5 Certainty Strategies to Avoid – part 1

5 Certainty Strategies to Avoid – part 1

Is my need for Certainty hindering my leadership?

In today’s world where the only constant is change, one of the greatest leadership qualities to develop is the ability to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. As human beings we seek certainty (at its basic level, certainty is safety) but sometimes the way we get certainty doesn’t serve us or our teams.

At Hooked on Leadership we use horses as facilitators for the learning journey. We do this for a couple of reasons. Firstly a horse is a mirror of your emotional state, and so will choose to partner with you (or not!) based on the emotional energy you bring. Secondly for most people, putting them in front of a horse and asking them to get the horse to do something, is way out of their comfort zone!

In this moment we see your default leadership style, we see how you deal with the unfamiliar and whether it serves your team or not. In this blog we explore five common ‘certainty’ defaults leaders use, and what to do instead to get better results from your team.

Red mouth1.Over reliance on knowledge

We’ve all experienced this person. The one who has just started at your organisation and regales you with stories of what they used to do at their old company. It normally starts with “When I was at Company X we used to do………. and I can’t believe you guys don’t do it this way!”

Or what about the person who in any conversation about any topic will weigh in with their opinion or facts on the subject regardless of depth of understanding or relevancy. They can even take the conversation off course so they get to showcase their knowledge on something else so they look good.

And how about the person who won’t take action until every hypothetical ‘what if’ has been answered.

These are all examples of people getting their certainty through knowledge and information. Now obviously there are times when we call on our previous experience and training, but what if all the examples above are leaders. And this is how they behave every time they feel uncertain, under confident or in an unfamiliar situation. How would it impact their team?

Would their team feel empowered and listened to? Would they feel consulted and valued? Would they be ok to take a chance and maybe fail? Would they feel trusted? Unlikely.

So what can we do instead?

Take on board that certainty is a state of being, not the amount of knowledge that you have or think you need. It’s knowing how to think, not what to think. It’s getting your own significance through asking questions not having answers.

In this way we are creating an environment for our team to realise their full potential together, and allowing a space for mistakes and growth.

2. Over reliance on Control

Certainty through control can manifest in many ways – micro managing, over processing, unnecessary bureaucracy , managing to the lowest common denominator, manipulation of emotions, bullying, putting people down, clinging onto the past, recruiting sycophants….

As a leader, if the only way we can ever feel certain is by controlling our environment and those around us, then we are severely limiting our team’s potential. Is this team likely to try new things, challenge constructively, actively engage?

When leadership defaults to control we stifle the brilliance in the organisation.

Fez tongue

3. Needing Social Proof

We all know the funny guy don’t we? There’s the one that thinks they relieve the tension by cracking a joke: “Like me, I made it feel better.”

And the one who wants to show how clever and sharp they are compared to everyone else: “Look at me, laugh at my clever comment, I love an audience.”

Both are ways of getting certainty through social proof, or the approval of others.

Interestingly there is also the opposite here – the seeming rejection of social proof. The person who is just ‘too cool for school’ and shows it through disparaging comments: “I’m better than you because I’m different and reject your norms (but I need you all to know that!)”

Now most of us want to work somewhere that has fun and laughter, but if a leader’s way of feeling confident or certain is to always play to social proof, then they risk their team not taking them seriously, or creating a clique in which only certain people fit.

Ultimately if a leader’s certainty is driven by needing social approval, then their team may not trust them to do the right thing when no one is watching.

So what can we do instead?

When looking at these two certainty strategies, both are driving certainty through external factors. Again let’s take on board that certainty is a state of being, an inside job. It’s trusting yourself to know how to think through challenges and opportunities using the potential in the people around you, so that there’s no need for control or approval.

In this way we are creating an environment for our people to thrive and do the right thing together.

Continue to Part 2 here