Have you ever had a time in your life when you felt ill equipped to find a solution or fix a problem? I had this happen recently. Our power went out due to a wicked storm, lightning was all around, the wind was forty miles per hour, trees began falling across the roads, and the creek in our yard flooded. I realized that suburban living had not provided the life skills I needed to live in a rural community without cell reception when my husband is out of town fishing.
I tried calling my parents to see if they could help me with getting phone numbers of who to call when the power goes out and when trees fall across a state route. But in the surprise and stress of the moment, I forgot they were on vacation and not home. Oops.
What I did have at my disposal was shelter, a charged Kindle, and real and battery-powered candles. So I decided to mindfully wait for the power to come back on. While I waited I learned some things. First, I need to have multiple gallons of water stored for occasions such as this. Second, apparently the fire department responds to downed trees and flooded roads in my Township. Third, the new roof that was installed a few months ago works like a champ. Fourth, I really want an automatic generator so we can have our well and septic pumps operate all the time.
My thunderstorm experience is no different than many of the surprises we encounter in leadership. We can have people lose their minds over something seemingly small one day, and then three days later do the very thing we asked them to do with a smile on their face like it was their idea. We can have people become frustrated with their situation and lash out at other people when the person they’re angry at is themselves. We can go into a meeting thinking it’s going to be a battle and it turns into one of the best brainstorming sessions we’ve had in a long time.
As leaders we approach these interactions and people with both expectations and compassion. We can mindfully experience these surprises, giving them thought and reflection for the best way to respond (not react). We can identify what we’ve learned, what we need to improve or prepare, and what we really want for ourselves (or our team or organization) to make life and work even more meaningful. We can communicate with our team that there are clear expectations and some things are non-negotiable.
Questions to ponder:
● What was the last surprise at work that forced me to slow down or be present to a situation in a different way?
● How did I respond?
● How did I communicate effectively and clearly with my team?
● Would I change anything?