Cool Confidence

What happens next when something goes wrong in your organization?

Over my 30-year consulting career, I've seen PLENTY of miscues, difficulties, challenges and interruptions.  They aren't exceptions.  They are the RULE!

Leaders typically respond in one of two modes when things go awry: 

  • Shoot-from-the-Hip Action, firing at anything that stands
  • Cool Confidence, leading calmly through the fire

I'd like to think I've led my teams with that Cool Confidence, but you'd have to ask my teams to validate.  Certainly confidence comes from a leader's demeanor or mindset.  I could talk about meditation, confidence and leadership traits.  Instead, here is a pragmatic strategy to BUILD confidence BEFORE everything goes awry!

There's plenty of project management processes and tools on Contingency Plan and Planning.  Look them up.  Use them.  All good stuff.

My approach is different.  I'll begin with ….. a story

A Wisdom Story about Governance

My Canadian client, the SVP of Strategy, was VERY concerned about how a very complicated marketing initiative could go very wrong in a zillion ways.  He deemed it a governance issue so came to me to talk about decisions and where they could go wrong.

"We need to develop a contingency plan for each possible failure point in the process!"

Wow….the number of ways a complicated process could go wrong is as infinite as the stars!  This could be a black hole for me and my team.  I needed an alternative strategy to Contingency Planning.

"Let's first brainstorm everything that could go wrong and I'll record them ALL on a spreadsheet."

He was delighted and allocated an afternoon for the exercise.

We brainstormed.  At 104 scenarios, we slowed down and started getting redundant.  Step 1:  Complete.

On the spreadsheet, I created 17 columns, indicating measurable thresholds for 4 levels of severity as that particular scenario got worse.  4 Threshold Levels, the decision to make and who makes it. 

Mind you, at this point in the afternoon, we've only completed Column 1 with 104 scenarios so far.  The client was satisfied that if we filled out the spreadsheet with 104 X 17 columns, we would have an acceptable first pass.  I assured him we could ADD additional rows to the spreadsheet if he wanted. 

The final column was labeled, Guiding Principle.  For each row, we would draft a Guiding Principle which we could easily communicate broadly to the organization.    

Okay, Row 1.  Scenario 1.  We painstakingly work our way across the spreadsheet with the first scenario.  Decisions, Responsibilities and Thresholds, with a Guiding Principle.

Row 2.  Scenario 2.  Same process, ending with a new Guiding Principle.

At Row 12, we were identifying the same 4 Guiding Principles over and over.  In this case, most risks centered around the 4 largest stores.  One guiding principle, then, was to stock excess inventory at the top 4 stores so they could handle any scenario of under- and overages. 


My client, now satisfied with 4 Guiding Principles, elected to cease the spreadsheet activity….much to my relief!

The Power of Guiding Principles

We can dream up 100's of negative scenarios.  With a little analysis BEFOREHAND, you can boil those down to some simple principles which guide both you and your people through rough waters.  And you have a higher chance of leading …. with Cool Confidence!

Act with Wisdom!


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