UK Leaving the EU: Strategies For Dealing With Ambiguity

Brexit European flag jigsaw puzzle with British flag missing pieceConsidering our own crazy political happenings in the U.S., I’m not sure we paid much attention to the big vote that occurred in the UK last week. However, now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union, it’s creating much ambiguity in our world economy and beyond.

I’m interested to see the impacts unfold and watch how leaders across the globe sort through all the unknowns. How about you? How do you deal with ambiguity?

I must say, it’s not my favorite. However, I have had some practice in that space with changing client situations as well as personal life circumstances that don’t go “according to plan.”

For what it’s worth, I’ve discovered a few approaches and mindset adjustments I find helpful:

  1. Assess what is in your control and focus on that. Think about what you need to do to create some structure to think about and engage in the work at hand. This could be writing out a plan, action items or to-do lists. Some of those action items could include: research (whatever has happened to create the ambiguity), identify and reach out to others who may have experienced something similar to gather their insights, or even journaling about your emotions or ideas about this situation.
    • The second part of this is, “let go of those things out of your control,” which I must admit is tough for me so I hardly think I can dole out advice about how to do this other than “see item #2.”
  2. Find a way to clear your mind or focus on something other than the things out of your control. For me, this is yoga and meditation. It’s a way to help put things in the right perspective and/or gives me a technique to breathe through the anxiety that can result in leading through ambiguity.
  3. Approach this ambiguous situation as an adventure – an opportunity to build new capabilities and enrich your work or life experience! Honestly, it’s much better to have this mindset compared to the mindset of fear and trepidation in the face of the unknown. The other upside is that you will be able to help others who go through a similar experience sometime in the future and it always feels good to help someone else out, right?
  4. Be willing to try something new and accepting of mistakes you make along the way. In uncertain times, leaders are expected to offer some direction and confidence to enable their teams to move forward. Doing nothing is the worst thing you can do! Even if you may be in new territory, remain open and encourage your teams to offer up their ideas. Creating a safe environment for others to brainstorm and experiment is often what leads to breakthrough thinking … and even a little fun in the chaos.
    • Closely tied to this is the leader who is constantly learning; a leader with high learning agility – those who are able to figure out what to do when they don’t know what to do.

I have no idea how this whole BREXIT thing is going to play out and affect us other than at this moment, my 401(k) took a hit. That was completely out of my control.

So all I can do right now is focus on doing good work, continue to build my savings and enjoy what I have today – my health, family, friends and living in a country that allows me to deal with ambiguity in my own special way!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults, offering workshops in Change Leadership, Managing Ambiguity and supporting clients through their change journey. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at