I have a favored lunch spot where I often find myself observing my fellow diners. On one occasion a young family, (Mom, Dad and daughter) sat nearby. As they took their seats the child urged her Mom to beside her. That's when her Dad said (in a tone that can only be described as heart-broken) "but I wanted to sit with Mom!" Some terse adult and a few confused child-like comments were uttered.
We assume that things will go along in a certain, predictable way and then without warning the rules are changed. Dad here was caught off guard when his little one chose Mom as her booth partner. Could this ‘crisis’ have been avoided? Could the outcome have been a bit more pleasant? The answer to both is a resounding YES! There are two key considerations- planning and responding:
Advance planning addresses four fundamentals:
- The outcome you expect to achieve
- Likely impediments (unexpected outcomes)
- Contingencies to deal with those impediments
- Planned response
It’s not possible to prepare for all contingencies but that doesn’t diminish the value of having a plan. There may have been a very good reason for Dad to want to sit with Mom. I presume he knew that before they arrived at the restaurant. At the same time one can expect a child to have impulsive expectations. Knowing this, Dad most certainly could have foreseen that his plan to sit with Mom may not work out. If they had developed a contingency for this likely impediment they may have been able to avoid the ‘crisis’.
A Measured Response
We are prepared for things we expect; our response is automatic, perhaps even rehearsed. It’s when we’re caught unprepared that our response takes on a significantly greater level of importance. A lack of preparedness does not diminish the need for an appropriate response, no matter how surprising the outcome. Dad’s response was apparently not rehearsed; and it was neither appropriate nor productive. Had he considered this possible outcome, he would have been prepared to respond in a more suitable manner.
Lessons for Business
Business is full of occasions such as these (sans the kids of course). On a daily basis we interact with a variety of people; each occasion plays an important role in our business success and growth. Whether interaction is planned or not we can take steps to ensure that it consistently supports the success and growth of our business.
- Understand what it takes to make your business succeed- keep this detail at the core of your interaction; it will serve as your guiding light and a source of focus.
- Acknowledge that preparation puts you into a place of balance; it’s easier to thread a needle on dry land rather than in heavy seas.
- Anticipate the unexpected- it’s a fact of life; don’t let these events catch you off guard. The planning you have done is invaluable in steadying you during these times and offers you the greatest chance of success in an unpredictable environment.
- Remember the value and the potential damage that can result from your response. Each response is the opening line in a continuing conversation.