I have a great love and respect for the quote: “It’s hard to remember you were here to drain the swamp when you’re surrounded by alligators”.
Unfortunately, many of us work in an environment where the business is not well managed and ongoing crisis is the norm. When you live from one crisis to another it can be difficult to be strategic with the business, much less your own career. At some level we all realize that chaos is a very energy-draining situation and simply making it through the day stomping out fires is about all you can muster. At times in my own past, I made sure I wore black shoes everyday so you didn’t see all the ash on my feet.
So, is it possible to think or act strategically for you or your business in this state? Well, yes, but it takes some strong discipline and will to prevail during the event. One good reason to do so is that eventually strategic thinking, planning and execution will pay off. It could pay off with creating some calm in the business and, wow… wouldn’t that be worth it?
BUT, how do you drain the swamp without being overtaken by the alligators?
Utilize think-and-plan time. We all realize that most crises have an ebb and flow to them. You assess the situation, deploy a fix and wait (pray) for the results. So, look for those times when the crisis no longer requires your minute-by-minute focus. Shut the blinds, lock the door, crawl under your desk and hide away for a full hour to work on something that will help your career and is more strategic and helpful to the business. You might find that a well-placed hour in the morning before everyone comes in to assemble around the crisis will work. Adjust your thinking if using that time for anything other than the crisis seems self-indulgent.
Heck, SOMEONE has got to think about the future!
Look for a fix. Granted the crisis that arises may be rooted in poor management, but it can take just one person solving the root cause to avoid the next one altogether.
Is it really a crisis? Just because someone’s hair seems to be on fire doesn’t necessarily mean it is a crisis. A couple of people come to mind…so ask questions so you know for a fact that your immediate attention is warranted. If not, step back and assess.
Adjust your expectations. For an environment that seems to never settle down, you may need to lower your expectations of how much strategic planning and career work you can do. This may be cultural. Some people thrive on chaos and think that’s just how things work. God help them.
Make crisis your expertise. Some people are simply better at working fast. They are like a sprinter. In and out fast and then on to other things. If you are speedy and have a good capacity for a big load, then consider turning this situation into your personal brand. Make a name for yourself. You still do the strategic work and the crisis while demonstrating that both things are important.
The simple fact is, some leaders begin their professional lives in crisis environments and never really realize there is any other way to do business. “Reacting” is not a strategy, it’s a skill. An often hard learned one. Being proactive is also a skill. Become more strategic by planning ahead. Your career deserves it.
Thanks for reading…