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5 steps to confidently leading a project with uncertainty

I came across this quote recently by Lori Greiner, an American inventor, entrepreneur and television personality:

“Dear optimist, pessimist, and realist — while you guys were busy arguing about the glass of wine, I drank it! Sincerely, the opportunist!”

I just love it. It can be so easy to postpone doing something, whether because the outcome is uncertain, or the steps to achievement are unclear.

I led a couple of projects over the past year for which I had no or very little prior experience. My confidence in being able to lead the first project through to completion was very low at the start. I felt I needed a clear process plan. I had an idea what the final output needed to be (not its content, but its form) and knew where we were starting from, but the middle – how we were going to get there – was filled with ambiguity and unknown. Luckily, I had a colleague and mentor alongside who supported me to take the first step and trust the answers would come. And they did…

I grew tremendously through this journey. So when I approached the second project, my confidence level was sky high. I just knew the right process would unfold and I applied the learnings acquired from my first experience.

Here they are – my five key ingredients to confidently leading a project filled with uncertainty:

  1. Be crystal clear on the end game – A focused objective is critical. There can be multiple paths to reaching your destination, but you need to know where your destination is.
  2. Seek engagement from those with experience – Co-creation is a powerful method. We don’t know all the answers, but a collective of minds can bring pieces of the puzzle together to form a clearer picture.
  3. Action the first step – The first step is often the most difficult, yet it is key to unlocking progress.
  4. Let the process emerge and communicate with collaborators – As you move further along your path to completion, the process will emerge naturally; capture it and share it (along with a timeline) with collaborators so the group moves together towards its goal.
  5. Be adaptive to what unfolds – Sometimes, the goalposts need to be moved; or there’s a change of players; or the game must be extended… Listen with an open mind to what emerges and adapt, while ensuring there’s consistent, clear communication with the team.

Doing something you’ve never done before is the greatest learning experience. So when you catch yourself arguing about the half full-half empty glass, just grab it and drink it… because the opportunity is ripe!

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