Do you find that when you try to push the association ahead others are not as excited as you are? Good ideas languish and die. The positive momentum after a great brainstorm fades. Work on new initiatives becomes harder when the list of to-do’s takes over. There are a million and one excuses why we don’t get started on the new innovative work but at the heart is uncertainty.
For every change effort, for every new innovative initiative uncertainty is our enemy. There may be a born risk-taker in the crowd but for nearly all the rest of us we dislike uncertainty. Certainty is more appealing. No one wants to be the example of what went wrong. None of us wants to invite needless risk into our associations. We find it very hard to move ahead when the path is unclear.
Here’s the thing, certainty implies stagnation. It’s about finding what works and replicating it over and over again. Perhaps we make tweaks and optimize a bit but essentially it’s the same work year after year after year. Stagnation is not good for us, for our staff, for our members or for our board. People who find themselves in the repeating cycle of sameness can get bored, dissatisfied, disgruntled, disheartened, discouraged and depressed. None of this is a recipe for winning member service or a healthy forward-thinking association.
But we DO want to push the association forward! So how do we dance with this powerful emotion that keeps getting us stuck?
Notice When Uncertainty Strikes
Uncertainty is super sneaky because it rarely looks like itself. Instead it looks like a pile of excuses: there’s not enough time, we don’t have the money, we don’t know how, this idea is silly or we can’t afford to fail. Fortunately, uncertainty is getting its moment of fame. Master marketer Seth Godin talks about the Lizard Brain. Author Steven Pressfield talks about the Resistance in his book The War of Art. It’s important for us to call it like it is because when we do we won’t waste time addressing the wrong things.
Former CEO, now extremely popular virtual mentor, Michael Hyatt says this about public speaking and other fear inducing situations (and I love this): “When I begin to feel anxious, I tell myself, my body is just preparing itself for peak performance.” Wow! That’s so much better than “I’m so terrified of the stage, I think I might barf.” As a team we can start reframing uncertainty. When we start to feel anxious in staff or board conversations perhaps the first person who notices this can mention that the anxious feeling may actually mean that we are on to something good!
Practice to Prepare for Uncertainty
Each time I step out of my comfort zone it makes it easier to take a bigger step out. I started by writing about association trends and solutions. Then I was invited to conferences to speak to audiences. Recently I have had the opportunity to share the information via video. Each time I tried something new it prepared me for the next time. The same is true of associations.
Try something new that’s small. Get a win under our belts. Then try something a little bigger. Repeat. The other thing we can do is support staff while they pursue their own professional goals. Do you have someone who wants to sharpen their pubic speaking skills, another who would like to learn to MC or someone else who wants to learn to code? This kind of work in other areas helps us all learn to dance with uncertainty.
Uncertainty doesn’t have to be what gets us stuck. Instead when we learn about it and practice to prepare for uncertainty it can actually be an emotion that propels us and our associations ahead.