"Houston, we have a problem!" What phrase in the English language could possibly illustrate how large and looming a crisis is? However, when YOU are the boss, there may be no Houston to call, no team of scientists burning up the keyboards looking for a solution. No secret computers to query and run scenarios with. Nope. It's all down to you. It's Leadership 101 (or 102, depending on the dilemma) and the course is PROBLEM-SOLVING: What to Do When Everything Goes Wrong. Will you pass or fail?
No Decision-Making. When the big uh-oh manifests, don't go into defensive mode, as a matter of fact, stop making decisions until you get all the facts. Many times, snafu's are much smaller than they first appear but an over reaction can make it worse. Stop the presses and gather the facts. Truthfully, during the initial stages of problem solving, your first response is rarely the best one. That's the right first step to problem solving.
Learn from the Problem. We've all heard it said, "You learn from your mistakes, not your successes." Why? Because problems force us to take a look at what went wrong. There's no better time to learn than when you are looking for a solution. Embrace the opportunity; it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise later on down the road. Examine the timeline and figure out where the hamster fell off the wheel. However, a good leader won't focus strictly on fault-finding--he's looking for answers not looking to blame someone. (Corrective behavior may come later but not during this stage of problem solving.)
Be Honest with Clients. You knew it would be a tight turnaround but now your whole line of production has gone wrong. What do you do? You'll have to be honest with those that depend on you. Just hoping things get fixed in time to deliver on a deadline isn't good leadership or business. Be frank but optimistic about where your company stand with the people who need to know. Having a reputation of integrity and honesty is far better than a reputation of making a few mistakes along the way.
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