unexpected road, voiceamerica


To quote John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you make other plans.”

How many of us have been surprised, even flabbergasted by a situation we just didn’t expect– the contract that we’ve had for years didn’t get funded again; the operations manager, hired from a competitor, who was to turn things around but created more problems; the job we were perfect for went to someone else; and I’m sure you can add more to this list.

Why Are We Caught Off Guard?
Because most of us are comfortable with what is. We all play the game. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or we naively and hopefully think that bad situations will not happen to us.

One reason is that our beliefs about the future put boundaries on our thinking – we “see” what we expect to see not what really is. Another is our experience base may not be broad enough to envision an unlikely situation. The few bits of information we may have that could suggest an upcoming change aren’t paid attention to. Sometimes we’re so busy dealing with everyday small fires; we forget to see the big one that can or about to erupt.

Take Advantage of the Unexpected
Each time something important occurs that is a radical break from what was expected, realize that the situation carries with it many key learning points and potential opportunities. It need not be negative – unexpected positive events can provide equal useful. Here’s how you can benefit:

1. First reflect, discover and get insights. Ask these kinds of questions:

  • What is different today than it was a year or even six months ago?
  • What were our expectations before the unexpected event or situation?
  • How does or will this affect my work role, my team, department or company?

2. Be aware of the Law of Unintended Consequences.
We live and lead in a complex world with a “mess” of relationships and interactions. This means everything interacts with everything else. The law holds that almost all human actions have at least one unintended consequence. In other words, each decision or action we take can have more than one effect including unforeseen or undesirable effects. A solution to one problem can create another or what looks like honey can quickly turn into vinegar.

3. Determine changes that need to be made.
It could be your own behavior on how you lead, make decisions or work with your team; it could be a different approach dealing with you customers or suppliers; it could be dropping a product line or adding new ones; it could even be revamping your business or strategic plan because of new competition. Whatever it is it needs to be well thought out and quickly implemented.

Smart Moves Tip:

As leaders we don’t always have to wait until life happens. We can contemplate the future through developing “what if” scenarios. We can ask questions such as: What can go right? What possibly can go wrong? What’s the best case and worst case scenario? What would the situation be like if we projected the current information out one year or five or ten years?


Marcia Zidle, the smart moves executive coach and speaker, is host of The Business Edge on the VoiceAmerica Business Network. The show features the Smart Growth System providing small to medium sized businesses the proper foundation for expansion: a Growth Agenda that becomes their roadmap, a Growth Engine that attracts and engages the best talent and Growth Leaders that make it happen. Marcia, the CEO of Leaders At All Levels, brings street smarts to help businesses get on the right track and not get sidetracked on their path to higher performance and profitability.