Let me present you with a situation: Your manager is pushing you to take on more responsibilities. He calls you to his office and hands you a memo that lays out a new project which he asks you to lead. You’re dumbfounded and appreciative for the opportunity, wasn’t expecting it. But, you’re also a little scared to take on such an important project. You begin thinking about how this could be an opportunity for your career but also a threat.
You’ve probably been in this situation. Most people are happy in a slow and steady trajectory, rather than taking on important projects because they don’t want the responsibility. Thinking about the uncertainty, and the risk of not knowing what could happen paralyzes people; they see change as a threat rather than an opportunity.
Change the way you view a situation
To overcome being paralyzed by uncertainty and change, you have to see change as a challenge; not a threat. How do you do that? Reframe your thoughts. Cognitive reframing is a technique to identify, challenge, and change the way a situation is viewed; thus you can use it to help you see opportunity in otherwise threatening situations.
Use these four steps to help you reframe threats as opportunities:
- Recognize ambiguity. Uncertainty is common when you encounter messy problems and unforeseen obstacles. So, any project you take on that you’ve never done will be full of uncertainty; pause and check yourself.
- Check your mindset. Pay attention to your thoughts and reactions. Become aware that you could be looking at the situation through a threat lens by asking yourself these questions: Am I concerned with the downside risks rather than the upside possibilities? Do I believe I lack the ability to do this or have sufficient capability to do so?
- Reframe the situation. Consider how the situation would look like from an opportunity lens, ask yourself: How can this have a positive impact on my goals? How much better will I have become when I succeed in this project?
- See with an opportunity lens. Consider what you would do differently if you saw this situation as an opportunity, ask yourself: What new abilities will I have unlocked when I succeed at this project? How much better will the organization improve if I take on this project?
The smartest leaders use reframing a tool to see situations from a different perspective, to think more clearly, to communicate and influence, to unleash innovation and to make better decisions. Leaders need to be able to look at the situations they face from different perspectives. The need to be able to reframe a situation in order to understand what’s really going on and deal with it effectively.
Bottom line: Reframing uncertainty as an opportunity will help you to act boldly. When you change your lens from threat to opportunity you can turn risky situations into learning experiences.