Why can’t managers make “educated guesses”?

Dec 16 / Metron
Working with uncertainty” is another buzz phrase thrown out there to managers. Confusing the hell out of us.
As you ascend your career ladder, you'll encounter a new landscape: one where the future isn't neatly laid out in spreadsheets, but rather hinted at in trends, whispers, and educated guesses. Managers, like senior leaders, enter into a world of "maybes" and "what-ifs."

This is a big change if you feel you can’t operate with ambiguity and need more clarity and certainty. 50% of the time you will need to find a way to see the full picture without having all the pieces.

Your language and questions change. Partly so you can question what the future looks like. But also in doing so, you’re working with what’s called imperfect information.
This uncertainty can be unsettling, especially for those accustomed to short-term goals and readily available answers. But embracing "maybe" is crucial for your growth as a manager.

Why it's difficult to make educated guesses

1.  How you live is how you think: we like being "in the know", we may also live in the moment! How many of us leap and think after? Our personality defines our behaviour, personally and professionally as a manager. So the further you look ahead, the less clear the picture is. We can't live in the moment. Decisions impacting years, not weeks, require a new kind of vision – one that navigates ambiguity and thrives on calculated risk.

2. The Future's a Moving Target:
Markets shift like desert sands, technology leaps forward like a rocket on caffeine like this huge AI wave with Chat GPT,  and customer preferences change faster than a fashion trend. So just when you think you have an a possible route forward, you have to shift and iterate your ideas.
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2 tips to be a respected Guess-timator

So, how can you navigate this uncertain terrain with confidence? Here are two practical tips:

1. Befriend Curiosity: Let go of the "I need all the answers" mentality and embrace the power of "what if?". Don't let ambiguity paralyse you. Find one thing to anchor in that really makes sense. Trust a narrative and feedback over hard or exact science. The fog might obscure the perfect path, but it also reveals the potential for creative solutions and unexpected breakthroughs.

2.
Experiment – make it easy for your team or senior manager to accept your recommendation and educated guess by saying “what have we got to lose”. You can reduce the risk of experimenting in 3 ways:
--showing it’s not as costly, someone else is taking the risk,
--assuring that it’s not a distraction and links to a real goal or problem the company is facing
--that you can try and fail fast, so even if you're wrong you won’t waste time, but if you're right the pay off could be worth it

Example

Take Maya, a rising star in the world of eco-tourism. As she stepped into her first leadership role, she faced the daunting task of launching a new adventure tour in a remote, uncharted region.

She was asked to predict where the demand for eco-tourism would be in 3 years. Maya was daunted by this because she previously focused on organising tours and maybe planning 6-9 months ahead. That was uncertain enough for her.

She felt really uneasy about how to begin understanding future trends 3 years ahead! Even if she found some way of doing this, she was worried what would happen if she predicted things wrongly, and how she could make a clear business decision without much information. 

Instead of getting bogged down in data reports, Maya assembled a diverse team of experienced guides, local community leaders, and environmental experts. She pieced together future trends based on ideas and information other people had. They brainstormed, tested different routes, and even collaborated with local artisans to create sustainable souvenirs.

The result? A thriving eco-tourism experience exceeding both environmental and financial goals, proving that embracing "maybe" can lead to ground breaking leadership and lasting impact.

Conclusion

Remember as a new manager, you'll need to get better at working with imperfect or no information. "Maybe" isn't your enemy, but your way to experiment towards getting to the right answer.

Practice the tips in this article to make educated guesses and guide your team or organisation. Grab your compass, embrace the uncertainty,.

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