A few months ago, I received a panicked call from a client who owns a creative agency. Three of his key employees had met him at the elevator that morning, personal possessions in hand, and announced they were off to build an agency of their own. My client, I'll call him Jason, had just landed two of his largest accounts ever and this turn of events, he was convinced, left him doomed to failure.

Since Jason and I had been working on rebuilding a failed culture, I wasn't at all surprised by the news. Toxic people often walk when changes occur; he was definitely better off without these employees. However, ideas needed to be born and deadlines met.

While Jason was facing a certain amount of setback, there were many exciting opportunities buried somewhere within this bad news. All we had to do was dig it up.

If you tend to see only the bad in a difficult turn of events, it will breed more adversity. Instead, seek opportunity by examining all angles of the setback. These two questions will help you develop resilience, become more innovative, and make you an unstoppable leader.

What good could possibly come out of this situation?

When I asked Jason this first question (after some deep breathing exercises), he began to list the positive angles with relative ease:

  • The opportunity to rebuild what was a negative culture by onboarding collaborative, positive thinkers.
  • With the right people in place--true team players--he may not need to replace all three employees, which would result in a significant cost-savings.
  • Due to recent difficulties in dealing with employee dissatisfaction, life would be much less stressful once he got to the other side of this.
  • The new projects were not moving forward under the supervision of the project manager who had left. Now he could gain some traction.
  • He was over-paying his project manager because she had threatened to leave in the past. Moving forward, he would not feel blackmailed.
  • He had been holding back. With the right people in place, there would be no limit on his growth.
  • He had felt uncomfortable and uncertain about fulfilling the new contracts; now he would find creative, passionate people who were up to the task.

Quite an amazing list, wouldn't you say?

The next question to ask is this:

What steps can I take to move these things forward?

Once you find the good in your situation, make a plan. Here are bullet points from the plan that worked for Jason.

  • Immediately call peers, mentors, and friends in the industry to get the names of people who could temporarily fill in.
  • If needed, place a job posting for a temporary position, possibly leading to full time, on his favorite job board.
  • Speak to the remaining team; they need to be reassured of the stability of the company and be included in the plan to move forward.
  • Take over the lead on the most critical projects, assigning new tasks to the remaining team.
  • Make a list of acceptable things to be placed on the back burner, just for the time being.
  • Stay positive, be a great role model.

Jason found temporary replacements within three days; one was hired on a full-time basis almost immediately; at the one-month mark a second employee was hired and both are performing exceptionally. Everyone stepped up and their accounts continue to grow under his team's vision and strategy. Jason has grown, both personally and professionally, living life and building his company in a healthy and profitable manner.

By Jason's example, there is no need to label something as "bad" when significant good can be found in even the most difficult situation.

Published on: Jun 19, 2017
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