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Learning to Embrace Uncertainty in 2022

Heloise Hooton

Uncertainty has become a certainty in all of our lives. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is the one constant all of us can now rely on. We have become trained to caveat our intentions with disclaimers and to assume nothing will go as planned. The PR world should have a high tolerance to uncertainty though, seeing as we work in one of the most changeable industries in the world.

It’s our job to deal with multiple projects, news streams and individuals. To juggle new business with old and to manage constantly evolving relationships with contacts who are always on the move. Numerous external factors – cultural, social, economic and political – affect our day to day. Nobody works in PR for an easy life.

And yet even I – a consummate risk-taker who thrives off the thrill that comes from taking a leap into the unknown – has found my belief in the invigorating power of change sorely tested recently. I’ve always felt that there’s nothing worse than watching the world pass by and feeling like an observer. That’s why I’ve lived in 4 different countries, travelled the world solo, and why I left a comfortable job at a big agency to strike out on my own with Hooton. But, right now, I’d love nothing better than to simply book an in-person meeting or attend a networking event fully confident that a) it will actually go ahead and b) I won’t risk getting ill once there. 

Yet, I still strongly believe that creativity, trust and better relationships – both professional and personal – come from embracing discomfort. So when I heard about an online workshop dedicated to uncertainty, I signed up immediately. Here, I’d like to pass on some key lessons I’ve learned, both from my own experience and from the course, about how to head into 2022 ready to embrace positive uncertainty, using it to enhance rather than inhibit our experiences.

Practice ‘daring leadership’

Daring leadership is relevant both internally, as regards team management, and externally, in terms of how you show up as a leader while representing your company or clients. It’s better to learn and get it right, then to always know and be right. Putting yourself out there and saying, “I don’t know the answer, but I want to find out” is far more powerful collaboratively than faking it. Standing by your convictions and admitting mistakes can be seen as a radical act for leaders and brands, but that kind of transparency and honesty builds trust.

Recognise that ‘doing your best’ is a movable scale

You can’t hold yourself to the same standards every day because, well, shit happens. It’s no longer practical to pretend that everyone’s professional and personal worlds are mutually exclusive. Events (such as, say, a global pandemic) can kick you – and your colleagues – in the teeth, and you have absolutely no control over that. Therefore, recognising that “doing your best” is a movable scale will enable you to face uncertainties more confidently, without an impossible standard hanging over your head.

By making the hard decisions

One of the guest speakers on the uncertainty course said, “The right choice is almost always the hardest choice,” and it hit me hard. It’s often easier in the moment to let things slide, not  rock the boat, and to leave the seemingly unsayable unsaid. Uncertainty over possible repercussions and our ability to cope with them can make us see conflict instead of constructive conversations. But ignoring issues leads to frustrations, misunderstandings, unhappiness, and people acting on assumptions rather than truths. I believe that holding yourself and others to higher standards of honesty will lead to more meaningful and respectful connections, and will transform what is uncertain into a positive opportunity.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from Frank Herbert’s novel Children of Dune (yes, I am a sci-fi nerd): “To claim absolute knowledge is to become monstrous. Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.”

For more information about the uncertainty training, head here.