Monday, 29 October 2012

Creative problem solving under pressure

I had a little lesson in the benefit of my thinking style last week.  It was a good one!

I was working with a client for whom I've been working in the leadership development space for the last year.  I'm very familiar with the particular program I was facilitating last week in Brisbane and I know that there are a lot of details that have to be in place before the session starts.  All of the materials associated with these details were in the care of my co-facilitator who works for the client.

As she climbed into the taxi we said hello and then she asked me if I wanted the good news or the bad news.  I always go for the bad news first.  It gives me perspective and the sooner I know what it is, I can start working on a solution to the problem.

There were two packages of materials - one came with her as checked baggage and the other was sent by the printer several days earlier.  Neither had arrived.  The checked baggage had been lost by the airline and the box from the printer was in transit.  We therefore had none of the resources to run the activities (including the very first one) and there were no participant manuals.

It was not ideal, but we had less than an hour before we would be in front of 15 participants expecting us to be in control.

Luckily I am a creative problem solver and have no problem coming up with ideas.  I didn't dwell on the obstacles and feel bad about the situation; instead I started creating.  Within fifteen minutes I had devised and alternative activity for the opening, as well as a plan of attack for the resources needed for later that day.

My co-facilitator approved.  We executed my alternative plan and all went well.  I learnt a lot.  It was important not to focus on the one thing I couldn't do anything about - the fact that the materials had not arrived.  It was important for me to have the confidence of my client so I could just get on and devise solutions.  Familiarity with the program's objectives also helped.

Of course, I would have preferred that everything had arrived on time and the program could run as intended.  You don't always get what you want.  I was pleased to be flexible and adaptable enough not to be choked the moment I faced an obstacle.  On reflection, I realised that I was exercising leadership and being a role model - they were all looking to me to make it work.  Sometimes practical examples are better than theory.  Feedback from participants reflected this.

What do you do in a crisis? Are you good at solving problems and being creative under pressure?

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