Dealing with the Unexpected

Anyone who has been following political events in Westminster over the last few months will know just how quickly a situation can fundamentally change around us. With every new day, it appears as if events are not only speeding up but becoming more uncertain. Every new headline about shifting loyalties, new votes, new deals, rejected deals, leadership challenges and resignations seems to make the immediate future look more and more uncertain.

And it’s not just the public sphere that is addled by confusion and ambiguity. In the FM sector, the future of Interserve remains in doubt after entering rescue talks with their creditors earlier this month. While the ship may have been buoyed by the news of a debt-for-equity swap, many Interserve employees and subcontractors may still understandably feel insecure over their future.

The angst we feel about uncertainty almost always stems from
the feeling of being at the mercy of events that are out of our control. But what we find most frustrating is when we attempt to tame or control future situations by planning, only to find our plans wrecked by unforeseen circumstances.

So how should we react when our best laid plans are rendered redundant by the unexpected?

Well you can start by not having such comprehensive future plans in the first place. Or at the very least, don’t plan so confidently that you cannot prepare for a sudden reversal of fortune.

A previous employer of mine used to advise me to “only properly plan for things you can control, do that and the rest will come easier”. At first, I was tempted to think he meant that we should just ‘go with the flow’ and accept circumstances passively, when the point that was really being made is that we should hedge our bets, accept that the experience of work will always throw up challenges that will scupper our original intentions and do our best to position ourselves, so that when the inevitable does happen, and our plans go awry, we haven’t bet the farm on the outcome we wanted rather than the one we got.

And crucially, learn to turn setbacks into opportunities.

Last week one of our clients threw a spanner in the works by insisting on renegotiating the fee for Myfm’ s services in sourcing an associate and mediating the contractual discussions. Financially, this could have been written off as a financial setback and left at that. Alternatively, we could have refused to budge on our 10% asking price and risked a deterioration of the relationship. But when you’re in a business that prides itself on its flexibility and prioritisation of harmonising its clients needs, it made far more sense to accept a renegotiation of our asking price given the situation and maintain a healthy long-term relationship with our customer.

Dealing with the unexpected is more than about being prepared for a bad outcome, it is more importantly about being able to turn a bad outcome into a good one. If we can plan to find value in more than just the next deal and the next payday, then cultivating long-term benefits can be expected.

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