I took an interest in politics at a very young age. I proudly declared to my entire 6th grade class that I would in fact be the first woman President. (I also had an active imagination). Before that, in 5th grade, I can clearly remember the disappointment and sadness I felt when we learned about the Electoral College. It was like a bomb had just been dropped on my happy, childhood perspective on the US election system. “You mean, our votes really don’t mean anything?” I asked, absolutely horrified.
I then raced home and confronted my parents with this question – “Are you Democrats or Republicans?” They simply replied, “Well, neither.” Never one to give up, I persisted, “You HAVE to be one or the other." You see, Independent voters simply did not fit into the mental portrait painted for me during class.
Again, I demanded, almost tearfully now, “You have to choose - we have a two party system!” To which they calmly responded that you did not in fact have to be just one or the other. In theory I understood that you did not have to fall into one category or the other. However, I simply could not accept this vague, non-specific response. We debated the topic for no less than an hour, until they finally gave in and gave an answer to appease me (and honestly, to this day I don’t remember which one they chose).
Fast-forward 20 years and I am still bothered by topics that aren’t clearly defined. I don’t prefer to live in the world of gray, nor can I easily relate to it. I’ve heard this color has 50 shades, yet for me, I prefer the world of black and white. You either ARE or you AREN’T; you are either IN or you are OUT; it’s either YES or it’s NO; the answer is RIGHT or it’s WRONG. There is no room for doubt or second-guessing, and I thrive on this kind of organized simplicity. Unfortunately though, situations in the workplace, and in life, are rarely as discernible as I would like.
An essential part of personal growth and development – and by extension, leadership - is the ability to identify your weaknesses. In the spirit of the upcoming performance review season I have begun the often painful process of self-reflection. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the biggest challenges I face has to do with my resistance to information, processes, people, and things that are vague or not clearly defined and delineated. As a result, I have resolved to come to terms with the grey monster I call Ambiguity and learn to tackle it head-on this year. I’ll still refer to lots of black and white categories to help me get along, but this time around, I’ll make a bucket for the gray stuff too.
What professional demons will you overcome in 2013?