Leaders, Expect the Unexpected!

Guest blog written by: Lorrie Howard, Horizon Point Consulting 

“Expect the unexpected.” -Zig Zigler

During a recent hike on Rainbow Mountain with my three boys and two dogs, I was gently reminded that even when you expect the unexpected, you can be caught off guard.

Multiple times during our hike when my oldest was leading the way, I reminded him to go slow and watch out for snakes. Then about half way through the hike we stopped to take a break. The boys sat down on a large rock and I sat down about ten feet ahead of them. Almost as soon as I sat down, I heard the leaves beside me rustling and looked over to watch what I’m pretty sure was a copperhead snake slither across the path in front of me.

Even though I had warned my son multiple times to be on the lookout, I didn’t actually think we’d walk up on a snake while hiking.  And while I am not afraid of snakes (spiders are a different story), it still caught me off guard and I quickly had to assess the situation and decide how to respond, as well as how my boys and dogs would respond if they saw it.

I quietly told my boys to stand still and as soon as it had slithered far enough away from me into the woods, I slowly stood up and moved to where they were. Together we waited a few minutes so that the snake had time to go on down into the woods and we could safely continue up the path.

As leaders, we try to expect the unexpected and prepare in advance how to respond. But there are times when regardless of how much we anticipate and prepare, we are still caught off guard. So how can we navigate those situations?

  • Take a deep breath and don’t panic. Stress impacts how we make decisions and often causes us to view the risks and rewards differently than we would otherwise.
  • Assess the situation. As I tell my 12-year-old when he gets upset over something, ask yourself “in the grand scheme of things, how important is this?” What impact will this truly have? What can you do to mitigate it or even turn it into a positive?
  • Seek out help. Don’t be afraid, or embarrassed, to enlist the help of others. We all need to lean on others sometimes. And they may be able to offer a perspective we hadn’t considered.
  • Be flexible. Plans aren’t foolproof. Sometimes they work great, sometimes they work halfway, and sometimes they don’t work at all. That’s okay. Make adjustments where needed, or if necessary, scrap the entire plan and go back to the drawing board.
  • Assess the results. What went well and what could you have done better? What was the impact on your organization?
  • Celebrate your success. Whether it’s a new product or service, a new policy or procedure rollout, or just putting out a fire, take the time to celebrate your success and congratulate yourself and those who helped. For me, it was taking the boys and dogs for ice cream after our hike.

The next time you find yourself in a situation that catches you off guard, how will you respond?


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