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  • Writer's pictureRobert Stevenson

Handling The Unexpected

Robert Stevenson Blog Picture - When A Tiger Enters

Life is full of surprises, or should I say, unexpected events, that can shatter your plans, destroy your routine, or crush any possibility of doing what you were going to do the way you wanted to do it. So, how should you handle those unforeseen, unanticipated, unpredicted, or unexpected change in plans?

Several years ago I was in Las Vegas getting ready to deliver a program. I had conducted my interviews, studied their company and was prepared to deliver a 75-minute speech. I had created customized slides with facts and statistics about their company and industry that would help to enhance my message; I was ready. I was on a large stage, in an impressive theater with two giant video screens … the setting was perfect. Fifteen minutes into my program EVERYTHING went black; I’m talking totally black, where you couldn’t see your hand right in front of your face.

No one had a clue what had happened. I thought it may have just been a power surge, and everything would come back on in a few moments. Not a chance. I didn’t know it at the time … but it was a major power outage that knocked out four city blocks in Vegas for 90 minutes. The only thing we had in the theater were emergency lights and the red emergency exit signs. All audio and video support were gone … forget PowerPoint, lighted stage, microphone, or air-conditioning. We now went from a beautiful setting to a dark tomb. So, now what? How should I proceed? Should I keep going? I can no longer use all the custom PowerPoint slides and easily refer to the statistics, nor can I use any graphics to help enhance my message. There was a theater full of eyes (dimly) watching and waiting for my next move.

There is an expression I learned years ago that fit my situation perfectly: “When a tiger enters the temple, make it part of the ceremony.” Well, “the tiger” had definitely entered my temple (theater), so I made it part of the ceremony (my program). I told a story about a couple of other surprises I had encountered in my speaking career to lighten the mood and to give myself some time to see if power was going to be restored. When it didn’t come back on, I decided to move on with my presentation.

The key to dealing with unexpected situations is your attitude. Becoming angry, stressed or panicked will gain you nothing. I didn’t cause it. I couldn’t fix it … but I could make the most of it. No one was in danger, so there was no reason to stop. I needed to talk a lot louder because my microphone no longer worked, keep the audience engaged (through more animation, conviction and passion) and replace numbers and graphics with pertinent, descriptive stories. My audience and I were now thrown together into a strange experience, and they were very supportive of my efforts to deliver my message. For me, it will be one of the most memorable programs I have ever delivered and the standing ovation and comments I received after my program showed me how much they appreciated my efforts.

In day-to-day business operations, we all face new unexpected situations that we need to deal with. Talented, experienced managers take new actions or adjust strategies and policies based on the new circumstances, but they never feel helpless! Tigers are entering their temple all the time and the great managers deal with them.

They address an unexpected situation with a little “T.A.C.T.”

T = Think for a moment

A = Access the situation

C = Consider alternatives & options

T = Take action

When the “unexpected” happens … getting down, depressed, angry, frustrated, or losing your composure are not an option. Success comes to those who learn to handle the unexpected as if it were expected.


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