A specialist nephrologist I know well says to me: I get very nervous with all this heart stuff, I don’t know what they do well, but if you tell me to get a kidney out, sure, no problem.
As a trained and once upon a time practicing psychiatrist, I found specialties such as endocrinology and metabolic diseases, highly complicated and fascinating. I thought Psychiatry was pretty straight forward. My colleagues from other specialties felt that (serious) Psychiatry was something really hard,and that one had to have very special skills.
The financial analyst, the trader, and the risk manager think that what they do is something concrete, evidence driven and not that complicated. The HR specialist, the psychotherapist and the designer would not touch those areas and declare them opaque and unintelligible.
Each of us carve out the world around by areas of comfort. Within that area, ‘our certainty’ is high. It may not mean one single predictable outcome, but ‘the specialist’ knows how to navigate and what to expect within a margin of probabilities. The alien to those worlds would feel very uncomfortable because he can’t predict, he can’t be more or less certain. So we mix up certainty and comfort. But they are not the same, just good sisters. In fact, whilst certainty or uncertainty, per se, are pretty fixed, comfort can be crafted in different ways.
When your people feel ‘uncertainty’ (your team, your client) the question is not to pretend that the degree of certainty, or the lack of it, can be changed (they may be as they are) but to ask, how you can provide comfort. You cannot change uncertainty but you can generate many ways to produce comfort.
Comfort is intrinsically both (a) personal and (b) social. Personally, the question is what the other may want to hear that (being the truth) can produce comfort. (See my Daily Thought: I want to import this act of kindness). Socially, it is more a case of how the group dynamics (management team, committee, board) will work. In a group situation, comfort is 90% group dynamics (‘political’, some may say), and 10% topic-related.
Never, ever, go in front of a management committee, board, or leadership team to present or sell a complex idea without having a perfect map of the levels of individual comfort required. You may find yourself in a lion’s cage and be slaughtered 5 minutes later. Spend individual time, providing individual comfort, with people of that ‘decision structure’ before ‘presenting’. I know there is Dragons Den and 5 minute pitches for many things. If you want to play that game, fine. But these are artificial, if visible and photogenic set ups, hardly the vehicles for rational discussion.
As an ideas generator, solutions proposer, consultant, or potential business partner, you are in the business of providing comfort, not to change the fixed uncertainty of the world, or let alone pretending that you can do that.
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