In doubt? – take advantage of it

Are you in the middle of a paradox? A paradox where you, for example, have to deliver more with less, be self-leading and at the same time team-oriented or, where on the one hand you have to take care of the development, be the first on the market and on the other hand, do not disappoint your existing customers and stakeholders by launching a less good service or item despite being the first.

A paradox has two poles, each of which has a true perspective on the situation you are in. You must both develop your product so that new customers will come and, you must make sure to meet the needs of existing customers so that they do not choose a competitor. There is something contradictory in the paradox. They may seem to be mutually exclusive, but at the same time they are connected, and the poles must be balanced.

According to psychologist Lotte Lüscher, a paradox is a simultaneous experience of ‘both and’ as well as ‘neither nor´ between the elements or poles.

Doubt comes along with the paradox

A paradox is not like a problem with one solution. If you choose one side of the paradox, then you have not solved anything, but will soon be in an even more difficult situation.

Maybe you have an easy time navigating in that schism, and you steer smoothly through the rocky outcrops. If, on the other hand, you have difficulty knowing which way to go or how to balance between opposing needs such as better and cheaper products or more service for fewer resources, then it may be the doubt you feel.

Doubt can make us despair over a situation where we are in what we experience as impossible choices – a paradox. When we look at the words doubt and paradox, they have some similarities. This is seen by the fact that the in the word despair, we have a pair. There are two. Likewise, with the German for despair which is ‘verzweifelt’, in which the word ‘zwei’ or two is included. When we are in despair, we stand between two poles or two different necessities.

Lead in doubt

Leading while in doubt requires that you dare to be curious about why the doubt is there, what the doubt want from you and which arguments the different poles bring with them in relation to the decision being made. Slowness or patience can be a difficult virtue to practice when the doubt is in one but think of it as a helper towards making a more balanced decision.

Spending a little extra time here is not an excuse for not deciding.

Doubt also means taking responsibility and making a decision. To change something, one must act, which is also in the word responsibility, to respond. The English word ‘responsibility’ says it very clearly because it consists of ‘response’ and ‘ability’, the ability to react / respond.

We must answer the doubts. We must take responsibility for the doubts we experience and use it.

Use the different perspectives in doubt

Doubt reminds you of the tense situation you are in. There are several needs and stakeholders at stake, and a black and white leadership is not enough here. To grasp and get into the doubt, you can work on the following:

• Which poles are at stake in your doubt? Map them and note the benefits of each pole. What can it add to the situation to try to get these benefits balanced into the final decision?

• If it is difficult to be curious about the benefits, involve your organization. Which perspectives do they have? Your colleagues, the management or partners may all give you a change of perspective and help to show you what blind spots you may have before a decision has to be made.

• Once different perspectives have come to the table, weigh and prioritize between them. There are to be found a way forward.

It all sounds easy, but it is rarely an experience that is done once and for all. Decisions are made, the reasons for the choice are communicated and the work begins, but after some time it is often obvious to revisit the decision. Is the way forward still right? Has our service or way of working become too one-sided?

Doubt is your companion – it does not provide easy solutions, but it nuances your choices and strengthens your values.

Are you in doubt when managing?

Work more with your doubts and the values ​​you have at stake through, for example, coaching or philosophical conversations.