We’ve probably all seen the adventure movie scene where the main protagonists suddenly find themselves surrounded by hostile armed forces, encircled, and not sure how they are going to find their way out.
At that point, typically, everyone has their weapon out, and everyone is at high alert.
There are some very carefully worded conversations between the surround-ers and the surrounded. A negotiation happens, with the surrounded party trying its best to find its way free (or at least not dead), and the surround-ers not necessarily buying it.
What happens next, of course, depends on the plot of the movie. Sometimes they are captured, sometimes they are rescued, sometimes they join forces, sometimes they are robbed of valuables, and so on.
But there are two things that no one does in these situations:
- They don’t just start swinging wildly, or shooting at random, hoping to hit something.
- They don’t just freeze up, not doing anything, hoping that they’ll somehow get away without too much loss or damage.
We often face the feeling of being surrounded – with our forces and resources overwhelmed – as a part of leadership. Multiple critical business decisions have to be made at the same time, and we end up feeling stuck. Taking a crack at one thing prevents us from being able to deal with another, it seems. And oftentimes, the things we are dealing with all interconnect in a way that prevents us from really seeing a way forward.
And yet, despite being the protagonists in the story, when we find ourselves overwhelmed by a large, surrounding force of critical decisions, we often take two very different actions than our adventure movie compatriots.
- We freeze up. We just defer. We put off the decisions and keep going with what we had been doing. We expect the difficult and critical decisions to just hang with us and be clearer later, or somehow go away on their own. To take our adventure analogy a step further, we end up captured by these decisions and held prisoner, even though we’re moving around a bit within our encampment.
- We start swinging wildly at whatever is in front of us. This often means that what we don’t see can sneak up behind us and whack us on the head. Or perhaps, to use a different analogy, we use “piñata leadership” – closing our eyes and swinging wherever, hoping to smack something valuable.
The problem is, of course, that neither of these typical business approaches gives us much success. Deferment often just allows things to grow and fester until they are out of control for anyone and everyone. Swinging wildly often creates collateral damage.
There’s got to be a different way. The stories the adventure movies tell can offer us some good advice.
- Bring a sidekick. Don’t go it alone. It’s always worse for the solo hero when he or she gets surrounded. Even one other person can act as support, foil, and help when the hero is surrounded.
- Stay alert to your surroundings. Take a moment to look everything surrounding you in the eye.
- Talk to the leader. Determine what one critical thing is in control of the whole hostage situation and begin to negotiate.
- Lower the temperature. Take a moment to find a way to reduce the level of critical challenge by negotiating with the “enemy” situations.
- Work as a team. Breaking out of a crazy hostage situation requires knowing how to act as a team, even non-verbally.
- Bluster if you have to, but make sure you have something to back it up or else things could get worse when you get found out.
- Reserve at least one secret weapon or technique until you absolutely have to use it. But when you use it, use it decisively, and effectively.
- Don’t assume you’re the one to save the day. It could be one of your helpers, or someone unexpected. It’s not all on you.
Now, doesn’t that look different from what we normally do when we find ourselves overwhelmed and surrounded by critical business decisions?
I’m curious to hear from you what other takeaways you get from thinking like an adventure hero as you lead.
… oh, and we could be your sidekick.
Interested in breaking free from the organizational challenges surrounding you?
At the L M Thomas Group we specialize in helping leaders make clear-headed, strategic decisions when faced with multiple critical challenges. We can help you pinpoint what isn’t working, and design solutions that fit your budget and goals. Let’s grab coffee or a Skype call to talk about how we can help you! (Message us below to set one up.)
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