Maybe you know this feeling, you are travelling 180 km/h on the German autobahn and you are about to overtake a minivan. You look in the rear and side-view mirror, and just as you are about to shift your car out of the travelling into the passing lane, a Porsche passes you with top speed. In a panic you bring your car back to the traveling lane, you hit the breaks in order to avoid an accident, and you are dripping with sweat. As your heartbeat calms down you are still cursing about the irresponsible drivers on the German autobahn, who overtake you when driving 180 km/h.
How could this happen?
The Porsche was hidden for a split second in your side mirrors blind spot– just long enough to give you the perception of a clear passing lane. An illusion which might have cost you your life and that of your family. Every driver is aware that there is a slight possibility that a car or motorcycle could be hidden in the blind spot when overtaking or making a turn into a narrow street. How often does it happen though that we are totally caught by surprise?
How about people in leadership positions? Do they also develop blind spots in their companies?
Maybe you know a similar situation, you walk well prepared into a meeting and John D., a colleague of yours who frequently annoys you with unconstructive comments, totally throws you off your game with one of his comments. Since you are well prepared, you slow down, take a breath and politely but firmly respond in a manner that allows you to achieve your objective at the meeting and finally bring the ship safely into the harbor. Later in the evening you are still upset with John D. and even tell your wife about it. At the next meeting where John D. is also present, you are tense before entering the room, because you already know what’s going to happen. And of course a couple of minutes into your presentation there he goes again. This time though, you attack. The situation gets totally out of hand and words are exchanged which don’t belong in a professional setting. You don’t know how, but in the end you are able to pull it together, but it costs you significant energy to get everyone to agree to your project and to achieve your goal. Even days later you are still upset about the situation and you feel embarrassed about making a fool of yourself; which is definitely not what happened, but it sure feels like it. And most of all it is totally below your standard.
How was this possible? You had prepared yourself so well for it? Or not?
If you know situations like these in some different shape or color, then answer for yourself without hesitation the following questions in writing. It is best if you do it on paper:
Which coworker or boss gets on my nerves on a regular basis?
What is missing for me in these moments?
If I would be a master in improvisation, and would be able to react spontaneously in such situations; what would then be possible?
What can I do differently the next time to be not only prepared, but also present in the moment, capable to react spontaneously?
Very often we prepare ourselves only for our own role, without acknowledging the constant changing environment that surrounds us. Presence is your key to openness, spontaneity and staying calm in challenging situations.