Reacting When Disruption Occurs

coffee spill

Let’s face it, things happen. Accidents occur, plans change, flights are delayed or missed.

Here in New England we’ve had major snow storms, week after week after week, that have caused quite a bit of disruption in logistics, travel, shipping, and even basic services across many states.

Even today I was getting ready for a regional meeting that we were hosting. The Vice President emailed late morning to inform me that an incident occurred back home and she, as the meeting facilitator, had to cancel at the last minute. I had just arrived at our offices for that sole purpose and had to make the needed calls to reschedule for next month.

It’s within these events that another layer of our leadership comes to light. Our reactions and emotions have many ranges of response, and how we manage them can create tremendous opportunities or cause major issues for your teams.

Some thoughts on reacting when disruption occurs:

  • Don’t panic or get frustrated. As a leader, your reactions set the tone for how your teams will respond as well. Whether a minor setback or a major crisis, people are looking to you for how they will react as well. You may feel panicky on the inside, but don’t show it, or voice it.
  • Seek to find the rationale. In my instance above, some of my colleagues were asking me to tell the VP that our time was valuable and to hold the meeting anyway without her. But in getting more information from her, and understanding why she needed to be there (stabilizing and inspiring changes in her northern team), I allowed her to deal with her situation without extra pressure and helped build a stronger business relationship by being accommodating and understanding.
  • Don’t bully. One department head, when faced with challenges, demanded everyone else to pick up the mess because they couldn’t be bothered by the inconvenience. This caused further disruption in the other workflows, and created a disengaged team, all because he didn’t want to be disrupted himself. Demanding your own way will always cause more chaos and pressure in an already challenging scenario.
  • Roll with the punches, go with the flow. Some people hate the quotes “It is what is is” or “It happens”. While we shouldn’t rest on those merely to be complacent, we do have to “accept the things we cannot change”.  Life gives us circumstances that are truly beyond our control. So we need to understand when to roll with it, and accept the fact that it happens and make the most of the situation that remains.
  • Look for the opportunity the disruption presents. Every dark cloud has a silver lining, you’ll just have to discover what that is. Maybe this gives you extra time to work on a big project. Time to plan more. Opportunities to engage with your teams. Ponder ways to prevent potential disruption in the future. Take advantage of the situation presented you, and you’ll most likely find it a blessing in disguise.
  • React by learning to be proactive if at all possible. An executive chef I worked with had a fresh made product delivered the night of an important event that was damaged. It was delivered within 90 minutes of the function, and upset, he tried bullying his way to have the vendor make a new batch, which was impossible with the hours of prep time involved. Some foresight would’ve allowed him to have the product delivered earlier in the day to allow time for inspection or correction, asking how the product would be transported, or perhaps having a back-up plan. Or all three. Learn from these times and help yourself become wiser to possibly prevent the impact of disruption.
  • Laugh. There is no better way to reduce tension and get over frustration that laughing in the face of adversity. When people see a leader laugh and find the humor in a curveball situation, you allow everyone else to relax as well. Then people can better cope because you have disarmed the tension was brought on by the event.

As a leader you alone can magnify or minimize the impact adverse circumstances have on your organizations. Be reacting in the proper manners, you can strengthen your teams’ reaction and enable a more unified response to life’s disruptions.

What are some ways you’ve reacted to failed plans and disruption? Leave your stories below!


About Paul LaRue

My goal - To encourage you to lead & influence others with positive impact.

Posted on February.18.2015, in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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