Part of your personal and professional leadership practices includes your ability to anticipate, visualize, and plan for a variety of situations and create back-up plans for when things go wrong.
And they will go wrong.
I was doing a presentation recently in Colorado on fear, creativity, and innovation. Toward the end of the program, I was presenting my 7-Step Action Plan for Managing Fear from my Overcoming Fear book. Number 4 is “Determine the worst-case scenario.”
I used public speaking as an example, asking the audience, “What’s the worst thing that could happen to me up here? Maybe my zipper is down and I don’t know it. Maybe people don’t like my presentation. Perhaps I forget what to say next. When you realize that none of those are life-threatening or even particularly embarrassing if you know how to handle them, you can reduce your fear of public speaking dramatically.”
Before I even had a chance to move on to #5 in my Action Plan, all the technology attached to my presentation went haywire. My laptop automatically shut down, as if on cue. The screen started retracting, and the projector that sat suspended from the ceiling on a moveable platform began to disappear into the ceiling. There were strange mechanical noises coming from the walls and the ceiling.
My PowerPoint slides were suddenly gone! But the presentation had to go on.
One thing I learned over the years about leaders: They’re successful because they plan for success. They visualize where they’re headed, the situations they may find themselves in, anticipate what could go wrong, and address it before it happens.
I was able to continue the presentation with no meaningful interruption and no embarrassment because I knew the slides and I had a printout of my presentation.
I also knew that when things go wrong, that’s an opportunity to create a humorous moment. We got a lot of laughs out of the technology having a mind of its own and the timing of the situation.
The best part was that the audience jumped right in with jokes of their own—they took the opportunity to connect even more with me and each other. With the strange noises coming from the walls and ceiling, they joked that the walls would soon start closing in on us. That led to jokes about not having time to be afraid of making decisions and acting, which was exactly the theme of the presentation.
What does your leadership practice look like? Are you afraid that things will go wrong? Rest assured, they will!
The real question you have to ask yourself is: Do you have the presence of mind to anticipate those possibilities and meet them head on? That will be a defining practice on your road to success.