Can We Find Opportunity When We Are Not in Control?

In my last post, I wrote from New York having been stranded there during the hurricane. As luck would have it, I was in a part of Brooklyn that had rain and wind but we managed to keep the power. Our biggest losses were the television and transportation. As you know the subways were closed for a week, gas was not available, and traffic was halted into Manhattan.

I finally flew out of Kennedy on Thursday but it was quite an adventure, taking a total of 14 hours; from New York to San Francisco, with a change of planes in Dallas, and finally another flight to Albuquerque, my final destination.

You my recall in my last post that I asked a question; “When you have a chance to create direction, do you take it or do you defer?” I had so many opportunities to test this premise, just on the trip home alone, and it has definitely influenced my mindset as I consult, coach and plan since returning to a more normal schedule.

During the first leg of the trip, the car I reserved and paid for in advance to take me to the airport at 7am presented the first set of opportunities. At 6:30 am I received a call telling me they would be a half an hour late, assuring me I would arrive at the airport in plenty of time for the flight. I then received a text from the car service on my phone saying I needed to re- confirm the reservation. When I phoned, the line was busy and it took about 15 minutes to get through. I was then told they would come, however, “there was no gasoline available and maybe if I could, I should get someone else.” They did agree to keep their agreement, but I decided in the meantime that I should try to get a car that did not take reservations and would come only on a moment’s notice. As luck would have it, we went downstairs to wait on the street corner and saw a town car and flagged it down. The driver was on his way home as he had only ½ tank of gas left, and thought he would be unable to get more. But for some reason he decided to pick me up, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and go, and left word for the other car that might come. I was able to cancel with them and received a refund.

On the way to the airport we picked up another passenger on his way to Haiti, which certainly gave me pause to consider how big challenges can be for some. The charge for the ride was more than 1 ½ times the usual cost and which the driver disclosed as I entered the car. The driver would only take cash; and would you believe that was the exact amount of cash I had?!

Traffic on the other side of the highway was bumper to bumper but kept moving on our side. I arrived at the airport in plenty of time. As I boarded the plane another bit of good luck happened in that my request for an upgrade was granted at the last minute so I flew for six hours in much more comfort than would otherwise have occurred.

In San Francisco I had another opportunity to create direction when I was informed that the flight to Dallas would be delayed. and after a time it became evident that I would miss my connection. I went up to the desk and suggested another direction and got a flight to Los Angeles and a connection to Albuquerque which added to the time spent getting to my destination, but lowered the amount of time I would be in the air.

So why is this relevant to creating a direction rather than deferring to circumstance or others? I realize that the trip was a microcosm of the business world today. Restructuring is taking place frequently. Just today I spoke with a client who is in charge of a department in a large health related corporation. She was told that her department will be cut by more than half to provide for a new group of leaders who will be focusing on growing the business following a new acquisition. Many of you are experiencing similar things and it goes to the heart of why collaborative leadership and alignment is a clear path for meeting the challenges of restructuring.

When it feels as if you have no control over the outcome of events, you can set up a project for yourself that focuses on creating a network of connection with colleagues. A large impact can be derived from gathering peers with whom you can share ideas and best practices. As these ideas are honed they can then be communicated very effectively, with support, to top leaders.

As a top leader use this opportunity to create greater connection with other top leaders to open pathways to more effective communication. As I spoke with a new leader today, we created a plan for him to focus on his expertise, communicating that expertise and creating a brand that becomes known to all of the leaders in the organization. Time can be set aside each week for various actions that lead to greater awareness of others and greater influence within the organization for you.

I encourage you to review our blog articles which discuss steps you can take within your own area of the business as well as your outreach to other peer leaders working in other business areas.

Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving Holiday in America and a wonderful two weeks wherever you are!