3 Lessons for Leading Through the Unexpected

IMG_2761Last Saturday, I woke up and started to get out of bed.  I immediately discovered something unexpected – my left foot did not want to operate normally without a LOT of pain.  What on earth?

I ran through a list of all the things that normally cause an injury, but none of them applied.  On Monday, I was planning to begin training for a 5K later this Spring, but I hadn’t begun yet.  Strange.

I made it through Sunday, and then came home to elevate and ice it.  So far, I’ve seen no improvement; in fact, yesterday and today I’ve barely been able to put weight on it.  I’m going to see a doctor later this week and hopefully get some answers. In the meantime, elevate, ice, and rest.

What does this have to do with leadership?  Quite a bit, as I’ve discovered in my forced time of rest and reflection.

1) Unexpected things happen.  If you lead long enough (more than a week usually), something will happen that you didn’t expect.  It could involve any number of things – business strategy, development, personnel, resourcing – but the unexpected is an inevitable part of a leader’s journey.  Sometimes they’re positive!  And sometimes they’re not.

2) How you handle the unexpected matters.  What do you do when something unexpected matters?  You have a choice – you can moan and groan about what’s happened, or you can get on the solution side of the problem.  On Saturday, I did my share of moaning and groaning.  In fact, I was downright grumpy (my wife can attest to this).  But eventually I had to move to the solution side and formulate a strategy for how to deal with this.  And so I did.

Leaders, your team and others around you are watching to see how you handle the unexpected.  It’s ok to vent a little at times, but you have to move to the solution side and model that.  If you do, they will too.  If you don’t, how can you expect those you lead to do so?

3) Find the positives in the unexpected.  This is easier for some than others, to be sure.  If you’re a natural optimist, then you will find this easier than someone who isn’t.  Regardless, I think it’s necessary for leaders to do.

As I sit with my foot elevated, I find that I have more time than I anticipated to catch up on correspondence, think, read, and write.  That’s a blessing!  I would not have gotten nearly as much of this done over the last few days if I hadn’t looked for a way to find the positives in this situation.  I’m not perfect at this, but I’m striving to get better at it.

How do you handle the inevitable unexpected things that happen?  What would you add to my list of lessons from the unexpected above?