Leadership & Working Without A ‘Plan-B’!

Do you pride yourself in being good at "Managing Difficult Situations"? In how many of those situations, did you manage to pull it off because you had a great Plan-B? How often would you fancy getting into a situation and possibly coming out of it successfully without a Plan-B?

It may sound radical, but in my opinion, if you have a plan-B, its not a “Difficult Situation” at all!

Though traditional leadership literature teaches you to have fall back plans, they hardly prepare you for an eventuality of having none in place and the frustrating experience that ensues thereafter.

Robert Frost's "Road Not Taken" sums it up perfectly. Though it applies to everyone in general, it perfectly suits the situation of leaders in critical decision making roles.

Leaders often have to face the challenge of having to choose a ‘path’. Often, the path chosen (or the decision made) cannot be undone or reverted back to enable ‘starting-from-the-scratch’ again. It is more often than not, a long one-way street that one needs to keep going and hoping to end up successful. Irrespective of how much you like to make an 'informed decision', there might not be sufficient data points to rely upon.

The challenge doesn't end there. It gets even more frustrating when the organisation's or team's future depends on that 'chosen path'!

Imagine having to answer "Where are we heading?" to a hundred people when you yourselves do not have the clarity!

To make another analogy, it is like that passionate off-roader who powers himself to the top only to find a cliff in front. No points for guessing the meaning of 'top' and 'cliff' here.

So, what should you do when you are seemingly under a tunnel without the light visible at the end?

I don’t intend to be too prescriptive here because each situation is different and the enormity cannot be undermined by loosely generalised examples. It would be fair to say that each leader has to deal with the situation, but there are certainly some tips that could help you cope with it.

First and foremost is you should take care of your health! Sounds boring. Isn’t it?

During stressful scenarios, the first thing we tend to ignore is health. People who smoke or booze, tend to overdo it. We sometimes end up loosing or gaining excessive weight. We tend to loose sleep or get into an erratic sleeping patterns. Loud snores or sudden breathlessness during sleep are good indications of brain not shutting itself off from the tensions at work.

The moment we loose control of our health, the brain starts making even more erratic or impulsive decisions. The worst part is, even if we come out of the situation successfully, we would have lost a fair bit of health and it’s a net negative outcome.

The second most important tip is to be real. Be yourself!

People working closely with you can often read through the body language and make out the stress levels. And that’s perfectly fine. No need to act and trying to constantly wear an ‘all-is-well’ mask. Let your close circle know what is going on. Talk to your confidantes. Be visible on the floor. Being incommunicado or shutting yourself off (though an easier option) will make the matters even worse.

Next comes the ways and means of venting out the frustration.

Working without a plan B could lead to excessive levels of frustration. In order to persevere through the journey, it is utmost important to let go of the steam from time to time. A puff or a peg is certainly not a sustained solution! You need to figure out a way to burst it out. Negative energy must be thrown out. While there are many ways of nurturing and improving the positive energy (Yoga, Exercise, Music etc), there has to be an outlet to pump out the negative energy.

The most important weapon is perseverance. Go through the motions and believe in yourself that you are going to come out of it with the best possible outcome. It may not be a happy ending always but the best outcome given the situation.

While those are things that you could do while going through the stress, there are certain don'ts as well!

Avoid mixing up the waters. While your family is there to support and take some amount of pressure off you, it’s insane to dump your work related frustrations on to your personal life and family members. Your family demands your attention and there will be certain responsibilities you need to shoulder, irrespective of what you are going through at workplace. Taking them for granted will result in strained relations that will add on to the frustrations.

If you happen to come out of the endlessly frustrating situation successfully at work place, but have strained your personal relationships en route, it’s again a net negative outcome.

Avoid taking too many advice. Yes, it might sound radical. But the moment you open up to describe your situation and start taking advice, you will most likely end up going mad. No one else can relate to the frustrations in your head irrespective of how articulately you describe them. It will be a disaster if you start taking in advice from lots of people and worse still if you start implementing them. If there are unsolicited advice coming in, listen to it but don’t let it sway your direction. You are the sole owner of the path chosen and be accountable for it. Have a mentor or two at max, but their ideal role is to listen. If they start following up on your situation and start enquiring how their advice helped you, its time to stop talking to them!

None of what I talked above is rocket science. No corporate guru would ever be able to invent a magic wand to get the leaders out of the frustrating situations. Leaders are meant to experience the oven themselves and not get roasted in it!

As I said in the beginning, it’s indeed a luxury to have a plan-B. If you have it, consider yourself lucky. If you end up not having a plan-B, remember that you are not alone. As a leader, just deal with it.

Hope you enjoyed reading my perspective. Will be looking forward for your thoughts and comments.



I like blogging about Indian Politics, Management and other interesting things in general. My political opinions are typically biased towards right of centre.

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Rajasimha Karanam

I like blogging about Indian Politics, Management and other interesting things in general. My political opinions are typically biased towards right of centre.