Leading By Not Knowing in Times of Uncertainty

leadership organization change Feb 03, 2022
Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash


Author: Bobby Pardini, President of The Grove


“I’m not sure what will happen next.”

With all of the uncertainty and disruption taking place in our lives, the above statement might seem a bit obvious. Yet, there is power in saying the words, especially in the context of leading teams and organizations. I have discovered this first-hand as my role at The Grove has forced me to reconcile the responsibilities of leading an organization that I have devoted 31 years of my life to with the volatility besetting us all. So much of what we knew or think we knew just doesn't apply anymore, and yet we are driven to confidently plan our way forward,  bringing along those around us as we go. But maybe, just maybe, there is another way. 

I have been inspired by the work of my colleague, Gisela Wendling, which explores the nature of change and the path we take through it. As described in the Wendling Liminal Pathways Change Framework™, the process involves moving from the old self into a zone of ambiguity and uncertainty called the “liminal” phase. It is only after embracing this liminality that one can emerge into a new space. There is much more to the framework than I have described here, but what I want to focus on is the idea that being in the zone of uncertainty is actually extremely important, though not always pleasant. Really allowing yourself to not know, to release old patterns and ways of doing things, is an incredibly powerful experience. Stepping into the unknown consciously and with attention puts us in a better position to intentionally create the new way forward. It is also the proper response to the truth, a truth that has certainly hit home for us over the course of the last several years: We DON’T know, and that is OK. The path ahead will emerge. It always does.  

Other lessons I have learned during this time: 


Listen More Than Talk

Everyone handles uncertainty and change differently, so it is critical to really listen to what people are saying. I have learned that although it is tempting to respond to everything that is said in a meeting or one-on-one conversation, sometimes taking a breath and being silent is more appropriate at that moment. Your responses will always be there, just be judicious about when you offer them. 


Speak Your Truth

The other side of the coin to listening is speaking your truth when it is appropriate to do so. My experience during this time of Zoom is that people are actually MORE inclined to speak authentically than they were in meeting rooms when colleagues and superiors shared physical space with them. I have found most people respond well to what we at The Grove call “courageous authenticity,” so give it a try. You’ll be surprised at what happens next. 


Connect One on One with People 

Perhaps this seems like a no-brainer, but early in Zoom World, I discovered that I was feeling distant from my work colleagues, though I was meeting with them in group calls on a regular basis. I began scheduling one-on-one calls and soon realized that my sense of connectedness with others increased significantly. Plus, it was a lot of fun! 


Try Something, and Then Try Something Else

Experimentation in times of ambiguity is a helpful, appropriate response, especially if the urge to do something—anything—is strong. The key is to hold the effort lightly so that you can make changes and adjustments as things play out. We have all read the reports about the Pandemic Retirement Surge taking place in our society which is, really, some people’s way of experimenting during this liminal phase. Perhaps your response is to learn a new skill or attend an edgy workshop. Whatever you choose to do, do it fully and then take the time to process what you’ve done and how it will inform your next move. 


Be Kind

It is impossible to know how the past two years of social isolation/distancing have impacted everyone around you, but it is possible to understand that it has. Bestow grace on yourself and those around you when at all possible. It just feels good. 


Play with Your Pets

Seriously, pets are good for you! Imagine how boring Zoom World would be if we didn't have pets bouncing around our screens! Plus, they never argue and are always happy to see you (some cats excepted). They love you unconditionally. Play with them often.



Photo by Bobby Pardini  






Visualization helps make sense of complexity. Bobby will work with you to craft a tailored solution to your challenge drawing on The Grove's visual offerings and seasoned consultants. You can reach him at [email protected].

If you'd like to learn more about the Wendling Liminal Pathways Change Framework, then check out our in-person course Designing & Leading ChangeJoin Grove Founder David Sibbet and Gisela Wendling, Ph.D., as they deliver an in-depth look at an approach to change work that integrates transformational processes with dialogic and visual best practices. 

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