(By Erika Napoletano)
“Life’s messy. So is business. The odds are, if either were easy, they wouldn’t be called “life” and “business.” They’d be called “beer.” So when things explode, fall flat or otherwise don’t meet your wildly conjured expectations, it’s time for a little post-mortem.“
Our best laid plans. We spend hours, months, sometimes years conjuring them up. We meticulously put them into place, excitedly set them into motion.
And then things go straight to hell. That “I should have turned left at Albuquerque” Bugs Bunny voice creeps in, and we’re left standing in front of a mess where we thought there would be success.
Although making plans is a smart business move, things rarely ever go exactly according to plan. So what do we do when we find our well-thought-out plans looking more like the last episode of Breaking Bad than the season finale of American Idol?
You Could Get Mad
Maybe you feel like throwing something or punching through a door. Mad works—it’s a visceral response that channels frustration. The best part about getting mad is that it gets all that anger out of your system so you can clear some space for cleaning up the mess left by the plans that went awry.
So, yeah. Go ahead and get mad. But in the process, don’t be a jerk. Your partner, spouse, employees, even the barista at your local coffee shop—they might be handy, but they’re not deserving of your frustration-fueled wrath. Instead, get the mad out of your system and on to a process that can get you moving in the right direction.
You Could Figure Out What’s Good
Life’s messy. So is business. The odds are, if either were easy, they wouldn’t be called “life” and “business.” They’d be called “beer.” So when things explode, fall flat or otherwise don’t meet your wildly conjured expectations (fellow Broncos fans, I’m talking to you), it’s time for a little post-mortem.
Instead of dwelling on the blow up or fizzle-out, it’s time to figure out the good part of this whole messy scenario. If insanity means doing the same task repeatedly hoping to get a different result, then isn’t the path to sanity figuring out what worked and what you could do differently? Because something has to change if you want any shot at all at making your plan work. Here are four key questions I use with my consulting clients when we’re going through a post-mortem:
- What was the best part of the overall outcome?
- What surprised you?
- What would you like to expand upon in the next iteration?
- Who do you need on your team to make the most of the next attempt at success?
You’ll notice that all these questions have one thing in common: They’re positive. A post-mortem isn’t the time or place to beat yourself up and dwell on what didn’t work. Guess what? We already know what didn’t work.
Instead, this is the time to figure out what did work and then start building from those successes, even though they might not be the successes you’d envisioned. When you’re done sifting through the rubble and picking up the pieces worth keeping, the odds are, you’re going to need some help to give your next effort a better set of legs.
You Could Ask for Help
What was missing from your last go-round, the one that left you feeling the way you’re feeling right now? Asking for help is hard, but it’s a critical skill for all of us to not just embrace but practice on a regular basis. We get so caught up in our own ideas and our own visions of success, and the way we feel things ought to be in business (and—cough—life) that it’s easy to unwittingly become trapped in a lack of perspective.
Asking for help, and an outside set of eyes, can help put the plan that didn’t go according to plan on a better path. Also, in the beginning, you should be less concerned with the folks you’re asking to provide that perspective than getting in the habit of asking, period.
Here are a few resources that smart business owners can tap into on a regular basis for that much-needed dose of perspective:
- Virtual assistants. They’re more than just administrative professionals. They’re talented businesspeople who can develop long-lasting relationships with you, your thought process and your business.
- Mastermind groups. Do you have a trusted (and small) group of colleagues with whom you can share ideas and challenges on a regular basis? Grab a group of three to four folks across varying industries, and set a regular monthly meeting time to talk challenges and solutions.
- Advisors. Some folks call them coaches. Others, advisors. Whatever label you want to put on them, hired advisors can offer perspective on a regular basis as well as hold you accountable for making the adjustments necessary to push you toward a more successful outcome.
So get mad. And when you’re done being mad that this incredibly messy yet remarkably beautiful thing called business didn’t turn out the way you planned, get to work. Better outcomes are on the horizon, and who knows? You might even realize that you were right about not turning left at Albuquerque.
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