How to Leverage the Benefits of Confusion

Progress requires clarity. Confusion paralyzes. Great leaders create clarity; poor leaders confuse. Worse yet, confused people pull back.

Paralyzing confusion is bad but confusion has benefits.

  1. Confusion precedes breakthrough. Pushing confusion away pushes progress away.
  2. Confusion drives everyone to seek clarity.
  3. Confusion opens us to outside influences and input. We seek help.

Thriving in confusion:

  1. Acknowledge you don’t know when you don’t. The illusion of “steady as she goes” negates the benefit of confusion.
  2. Don’t grab the first point of clarity. Average answers come easily – gently “reject” them. Say, “That idea sounds great what other options could we generate.” Extraordinary answers require sweat.
  3. Stay calm. Slow your breathing, movements, and rate of speaking; Pause.
  4. Write.
  5. Demolish secrets. “Everyone should know everything they need to know to succeed,” Jon Wortmann.
  6. Create safe environments. “Clarity is sought by people not forced on them,” Jon Wortmann.
  7. Nurture candid discussions.
  8. Change willingly, once clarity emerges. 70% clarity is enough.

How to act on clarity:

Clarity doesn’t guarantee progress; it needs courage for fuel.

Teams bolster courage.

Sometimes you feel clear when others don’t. If you can convince your honest, talented team, then go forward with a lion’s courage. The worst that could happen is you all might be wrong.

Other times the fog clears during team meetings. In both cases, allies and advocates instill courage.

Finally, finding courage in teams requires candor and honesty. If you’re surrounded with weak yes-men, peril is near.

Note: Jon Wortmann quotes are based on our December 14, 2011 conversation. Jon is co-author of the insightful book, “The Three Commitments of Leadership.”


How do you find clarity?

How do you find courage to act on your clarity?


Want more? See: “15 Potent Ways for Fighting Confusion


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