In many of today’s movies, the admirable, main character always has a calm and calculated reaction to whatever disaster that’s going on, and they seem to always have a solution to whatever the problem is. This trait is one of the many that we admire in that many of us secretly wish we could always appear to be unshakable and have the answers (or at least a way to get the answers). Unfortunately, in the real world even our scripted (planned out) work and schedules are consistently affected by the unpredictable.
As leaders, one of the best skills we can have is the ability to be flexible, creative, and adaptable regardless of the situation. A strong leader always looks to the long-term goal for their position, department, and organization. We must learn to take each project, event, or emergency and compare it to where we are going in order to achieve the goals that we set out. If an event, project, etc. shows up that has little to nothing to do with what your organization is about, ask yourself “is this really worth being concerned about or even accomplishing?” Remembering the long-term goals and targets can be the most useful technique for managing the unexpected.
Another technique is to remain calm and collected. This skill takes time and practice to master. It requires you to be able to take that internal breath, review the long-term goals and compare it to the short project or event. In some cases, this requires you to slow down, set aside strong emotions, and pay attention (e.g. actively listen) to what is going on around you.
Finally, every good leader in the past and present always has an understanding of their available resources. Recourses can be anything from individuals who can help (employees, contractors, or consultants) to technology that can help you achieve the ultimate goals.
Whether it is a last minute project, an upset customer, or a deviation in the original project plan, how we react to these unpredictable changes is a sign of our commitment and character. We challenge every leader to become students of the art of the unshakable.