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‘Unfinished business’ doesn’t need to be negative

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Successful people love endings – they relish meetings that finish with a solid list of next steps, and a to-do list with all the items crossed off at the end of the day. But consultant Julie Winkle Giulioni, on the Great Leadership blog, says it can be dangerous to always be psychologically driven for definite conclusions, in the sense of always wanting to replace ambiguity with clarity, confusion with order and uncertainty with firm answers.

Research shows benefits accrue when this is avoided, she says. "The upside of the discomfort we feel when faced with uncertainty or ambiguity is that it keeps the mind working, focusing, and trying to create an ending, answer, or resolution."

So instead of trying to wrap everything up completely, maybe leaders more often need to leave things open. Rather than ending a meeting with an employee with a firm conclusion, perhaps you need to ask questions the person can't answer on the spot, and will have to think about. And organizations may want to share some of their problems and opportunities with others beyond the organization, to see whether better solutions can be generated, rather than trying to have everything perfect before going public with a new idea or product.

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She urges you to stop seeing "unfinished business" as negative, but rather as creating a dynamic tension that can lead to better opportunities.

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More

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