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How to Come up with a Bold Plan When You Find Yourself Among the Sharks

Never Bleed in the Water When the Sharks are Around

Finding yourself in a tough situation often comes with the territory when you are in a leadership position. I describe these situations as being comparable to swimming with a bunch of hungry sharks. I learned through my experiences that the one thing you never do is bleed when the sharks are in the water with you.

In these tough situations, leaders sometimes get bruised and battered and they bleed. Once the sharks sense that there is blood in the water, the intensity of the crisis accelerates and the urge to start a feeding frenzy increases. A feeding frenzy in business terms is when there is a complete lack of discipline, which results in a loss of focus. Fear of the unknown becomes the dominating emotion.

It’s these moments of crisis that become a defining moment in your professional career. You can’t waste any time treading water and “hoping” that the sharks will get bored and leave. You have to act with purpose while in the midst of the situation. You can’t call a “time-out” or” a “do-over”. You’re in a “real-time” situation that requires real-time deliberate and committed action.

So, what are you to do? First and foremost, when you find yourself among the sharks – a crisis – a bold plan is needed to help you navigate your way to safety. Let’s talk about some of the components of this plan.

  • Define and accept reality. The crisis is there; it will not fix itself and ignoring it or thinking it will go away by itself will only make it worse (the sharks are getting hungrier). Make sure you understand as best you can, the core cause of the crisis; knowing how it happened will help you understand how to fix it.
  • With reality defined and the knowledge of how the crisis was caused, define the new reality; i.e. your vision of what you want it to look like.
  • Get your team Make sure they understand the reality of the situation. Your team is willing to help you, so long as you ask them to. But they need to understand it better in order for them to help in the right way.
  • Implement your plan. Define the roles of your team members and set expectations that everyone understands; delegation and leadership are key skills. Communicate with your team on how they are doing. Give credit where credit is due. During a crisis, emotions run high. Move quickly to diffuse any team tension.
  • Understand that it may take a fair amount of time to solve the problem. Try not to declare victory before it has been earned. Otherwise you will find yourself going back over the same ground more times than you need or care to. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes—you will! But learn from them. Focus on always moving forward. Focus on winning.