Whether you are starting a new project on your own or working in collaboration with a team, those murky areas where you aren’t clear what the facts are, what you want, what’s even possible can stop you and the group in your tracks and the whole project can come to a lock-kneed halt. To get unstuck from this, use a tool I borrowed from Mary Beth O’Neill at LIOS (Leadership Institute of Seattle):
Declare Your Ambiguity
There are 5 steps to this process:
- Declare The Ambiguity. Own up to it. Sometimes everyone is thinking the same thing, but no one wants to say so, wondering silently whether their peers have as many unanswered questions as they do, but not wanting to look incompetent. As long as this murky feeling sits with you and/or the group undeclared, you aren’t really dealing with it, but it is still there.
- State What you Are Clear On. In any given project or scenario, there are pieces you have clarity about, and pieces that are somewhat foggy or less clear, or a total blank. Begin with what you are clear about. Maybe it is the outcome, or the start date, or the timeframe. Whatever you are clear on, state it as a place to begin. This is like putting down the puzzle pieces you definitely recognize and you can build on them.
- State what is unclear, undefined, or murky. “This is where I feel I’m grasping in the dark,” or “Here is where the lines begin to fade for me,” are statements describing that feeling of not knowing where you stand. It might be different for you than a colleague, but by stating it you open a dialogue that can be clarifying.
- State the information that would clarify. “If I knew what the budget was, I’d feel better about providing some solutions,” or “Who, exactly, is our perfect customer for this service?” or “How long will we be in this temporary office?”
- Ask for what you need. Be specific: “Ray, can you let me know by tomorrow when the vendor is available and what he will charge for this part of the project?”
Once these steps have been taken, more pieces of the puzzle come into focus and you can move forward. When working solo, you may want to have a thought partner to talk through your ambiguity with, such as a coach or friend. If you are one who journals, you might work it out on the page in a mind map format. Repeat as often as required. Keep moving toward the things that light you up.