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How Can Leaders Manage the Unforeseeable?

[The following is excerpted from our new ebook, ROADMAPP]

Great leaders have a bias towards Action. They plot their course, set their sails, and point their helm at their destination. They strike a noble pose, appearing to all as masters of their fate.

Except that even the best sailors get blown off course with great regularity.

The Bad News: No matter how good your preparation and decision making, plans never, ever, ever go according to plan. Build your plan knowing that something else will happen.

The Good News: You can correct your course. You don’t want to change capriciously, but it’s good to know you can change actions and tactics without altering your goals. The key to effective Action is staying balanced between sticking with the plan and adjusting with agility. Good plans allow for opportunism.

There are 2 kinds of Actions:

  • Proactive
  • Reactive

Proactive Actions are preplanned. They address specific objectives and have either an implementation schedule or an identifiable set of conditions that will trigger implementation.

Reactive Actions are responses to conditions. Maybe you anticipated the conditions but didn’t have a plan in place. Maybe you didn’t anticipate. Either way, you’re in Pavlov-land. Something happens and you have no choice but to respond.

We all know that Proactive is good. “Be Proactive” is the first of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. But sometimes the future is unforeseeable. Even highly effective people can’t pro-act when they can’t see what’s coming. Reactive is likely your only option when dealing with the unforeseen.

Nevertheless, you can proactively strengthen your ability to react quickly and effectively. For example, you can choose to monitor your operations and market conditions vigilantly. Or build communication protocols for dealing with emergencies. Or decide in advance how you will make decisions when faced with the unforeseen.

Future posts will discuss other ways we can relate with the opportunities and obstacles we encounter while executing our plans.

How do you deal with the unforeseen? Is your business prepared for the next 9/11-type calamity?

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