When Things Don’t Go As Planned . . .

No matter how confident you are, there will be times when things don’t go as you planned — even if the solution felt like a “no brainer” to you. The real test of leadership is not whether you get things right every time (you won’t), but how you respond when you don’t achieve the intended outcome. Do you make excuses, point fingers, and get defensive, or do you ask yourself and others, “What can we learn from this?” and shift your approach accordingly.

The answer may seem easy from a distance, when you are not emotionally attached to the unsuccessful path. However, when you believed in and invested leadership capital — either financial or reputational — into a particular strategy, it can take some soul searching to determine if you need to adapt to the response of others or stand firm and stick with your original plan. Here are three questions to ponder as you consider your next steps.

1. What can you control?

As much as we might like to place responsibility for a disappointing outcome on “them,” the behavior of others is outside your control. The blame game . . . it’s their fault . . . they just didn’t listen . . . if only they had . . . is a sieve that drains your power away. The way to regain your forward momentum is to identify specific steps you can control (i.e. what you will do) to change the current situation.

2. Will adapting your approach help you reach your intended end goal?

If it is just about taking a different path to get to the same destination, adaptability is probably the best strategy. Afterall, it should not be “your” plan (i.e. don’t invest your ego in the how) and nor should it be carved in stone. No matter how much time you spend crafting an approach on the front end, chances are that you will have to make changes along the way. Be as clear and specific as possible on the end goal, and abundantly flexible on the most effective path to get there.

3. Does changing your strategy violate your values or fundamental beliefs?

Not everyone will share your values or top priorities. If the pushback on your effort comes as a result of different priorities or beliefs, consider if there is a way to honor or incorporate the feedback without compromising your core values. Looking for common ground can help diffuse resistance to your efforts and allow people with different perspectives to be heard as you seek a path forward. Even if you don’t feel you can incorporate a full range of perspectives, the respect you show in considering possibilities can help you succeed in the long run.

It is not a matter of if something won’t go as planned, but when. The good news? Whether the unexpected derails your efforts or simply serves as a detour on the way to your destination is up to you. How will you respond?

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