Leadership in Practice: When Things Don’t Go According To Plan

Leadership in Practice: When Things Don’t Go According To Plan

When is the best time to practice your leadership skills? When you least feel like it. That’s when your leadership muscles will gain the most strength.

I became very clear early in my professional career that just because someone had a position of authority didn’t mean they were a leader. I’m sure you’ve also witnessed bosses who say one thing and do another. That behavior says a lot about a person because it’s how we show up in our lives that really shows others if we are a leader.

How are you showing up in those leadership opportunity moments? I had one of those moments yesterday while traveling back to San Diego after a visit with my family in Minnesota. I got on the plane in Fargo, and we pushed back right on time. I was feeling good since I only had 47 minutes in Denver to catch my connection. Everything was going according to plan, and then we just sat there, and sat there and sat there. Now, Fargo isn’t a big airport. It’s not like there’s a long line to use the runway.

Leadership Opportunity Moment #1
The first thing I heard was a woman in the row behind me complaining that we hadn’t taken off yet. This presented me leadership opportunity moment #1. What’s the benefit of bringing negativity into the moment? It’s likely there is a good reason we were still sitting on the tarmac. And there was. We learned the plane had a mechanical issue. They gave us an update and were evaluating if the issue could be resolved. Later we were told that it couldn’t be fixed, and with apologies, we would have to deplane. How would you show up in a moment like this? Would you complain and be negative or stay positive? The way you show up in a moment like this is akin to how you show up in many of life’s moments.

Leadership Opportunity Moment #2
After deplaning leadership opportunity moment #2 was upon us. How do we treat the people who now have to deal with us not getting where we need to go? I felt incredible empathy for the limited staff that now had to figure out what to do with all of us. Personally, I stayed focused on my outcome to get home, and while we were pulling back into the gate, had already rebooked my flight for later in the day through another city. Admittedly, I have done a lot of traveling, so I know the ins and outs. I still needed to reclaim my checked bags and recheck them on my new flight though.

Now, even in the land of Minnesota-nice there was much impatience, frustration, sarcastic comments and a feeling of being wronged. I observed it with curiosity, mostly because, for many years, I would have been leading the charge. However, on this day, I encouraged others to change their perspective. It was an option to be grateful that they didn’t fly us in an unsafe plane. We could also be grateful we didn’t have to step into the shoes of the staff who now had to figure this out. What are you bringing to these types of situations? They can give us so much good information about ourselves. Take a look in the mirror and make sure you are adding value to the situation.

Leadership Opportunity Moment #3
I applaud the United Airlines team at Fargo Hector International Airport for staying focused on the outcome. United decided to send a “rescue” plane to make sure everyone got to Denver and then were rebooked to their final destinations. I did end up going through Chicago and got home nine hours later than anticipated. However, the bottom line was that my outcome was to get home Sunday night. I did that. I did it safely, and I did it with gratitude. I thanked each employee as I got on and off all of my flights. I gave them a smile, and they shared theirs too.

So often I hear that it’s easier to be negative than positive. That is only true because a.) you’ve been practicing negative and b.) you want to keep practicing negative. A smile and a thank you is a choice. And when you choose it, both parties win (and often those who are observing as well). Gratitude is a critical leadership skill, and one that we have the opportunity to practice all day every day. Are you choosing to look for what you are grateful for or what you don’t like? Whichever you choose, you will find it. That’s how it works.

I appreciate yesterday because it gave me the chance to practice being a leader. Those opportunities present themselves to all of us many times a day, and it’s in those moments when we differentiate ourselves. I fall down often, and when I do, I look for the lesson and I keep moving forward.

Leadership is a practice – a daily practice of going first, choosing positive, being empathetic and staying focused on the outcome. The next time you find yourself asking WTF, switch it to WTO (What’s The Outcome). Then you can keep moving forward focused on how you will lead in this moment.

If you’d like to experience LEADERSHIP at the next level, I invite you to talk with me about our High5 classes. Real life leadership scenarios allow you to observe yourself and find ways to make a stronger, more positive impact in your life and the lives of those around you at work and at home. Email us at info@high5leadership.com to set up a call with one of our team members.

The only way we get really good at something is to practice it. Make leadership a daily practice in your life.