Late in the film, the movie’s protagonist, “Turkish," is making his escape when he comes across a few armed adversaries. The situation is presumably dire, and the scene freezes on the faces of Turkish and his associate with contorted and surprised expressions.
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The scene"s voice-over is Turkish digressing, "Have you ever crossed the road and looked the wrong way? And presto, there’s a car nearly on you? So what do you do? Something very silly. You freeze. Your life doesn’t flash before you, ‘cause you’re too f**king scared to think. You just freeze and pull a stupid face.”
These “life and death” scenarios are rare in business, but they do happen. In the face of these unexpected, business-threatening situations, how would you react as the company’s leader? Do you stay calm, hold steady and act quickly? Or do you freeze and pull a stupid face?
Without actually going through them, there is no way to predict how we might react when faced with an overwhelming business challenge. We can, however, take steps toward preparing ourselves mentally by using visualization and considering these tips:
1. Focus immediately on a solution.
When faced with a business-threatening situation, some entrepreneurs tend to avoid the problem or deny it exists altogether. In critical situations, however, time is of the essence, so it is crucial to acknowledge and face the problem head on. The longer you linger, the greater the chance that the issue will have an irreversibly negative impact on your business.
2. Do not cast blame.
In high-pressure situations, there is no time for blame. Your number-one goal as the leader of the organization is to put on a calm face, seek out the root cause of the problem and focus on finding the right solution immediately. Once you have solved the problem and (hopefully) avoided collapse, then you can revisit the situation and determine how to keep it from happening again.
3. Accept that some level of failure is inevitable.
Entrepreneurs often expect perfection, including in the actions they take. In situations that threaten the company and call for immediate resolution, entrepreneurs are often inclined to spend too much time over analyzing the situation in an effort to find a perfect solution. Again, time is not a luxury in these situations. Instead, understand that perfection is for unicorns, and failure should not be feared, especially if you can leverage it as a learning tool later.
4. Remember that nobody wants you to fail.
Unlike the scenario of someone threatening your life with a gun, when your business meets an incredibly difficult challenge, remember that ultimately nobody wants you to fail. Vendors, lenders and stakeholders all depend on you, so as long as you have been nurturing the relationships, you may be able to leverage your partners to help you through these tough times.
My company, Wild Creations, faced one of these business-threatening challenge a number of years ago. Without going into detail, there was a 60-hour period over a weekend where my business partner and I faced the real possibility that our office would not open on the upcoming Monday.
Fortunately, we had spent many evenings brainstorming “worse case scenarios" and verbally strategizing how to handle them. This particular business problem was terrifyingly close to one of these scenarios, but because we had already talked about it and mentally prepared, we were laser focused over those 60 hours, with confidence and purpose, and were able to resolve the situation without the employees knowing the extent of the problem that following Monday morning.
Of course, as wonderful as the outcome was, and as proud as I am of our actions, I am fairly certain that at more than one time that weekend, I pulled a stupid face.
There was just no planning for that.
How do you handle these "life and death” situations for your business? Please share with others in the comments section below.