Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Make the Most of This Crisis, They don't come along too often

I am not going to add to the mass of amature analysis about the current financial crisis facing the worlds economy. There are journalists, bloggers, politicians and gurus to cause enough confusion without my help. I would like to comment on a side effect of the current situation. It is really interesting to see how different people react under pressure (including myself). It seems that extreme circumstances tend to bring out the best and the worst in us. I have witnessed some people excerise great creativity in solving the challenges posed by the current financial situation but I have also seen extreme cases of tunnel vision, lack of focus and even apathy. Why is it that some people can meet these challenges with energy and resolve while others seem to fall apart?

I wouldn't be surprised if DNA plays a certain role in this. Some are born with better genes to handle a crisis. It is not unlikely that our socialization has a significant effect. Still I can't help thinking that there must be things we can learn, things we can practice that will make us better prepared for tough situations. Police and firemen train themselves to be able to handle situations that would be difficult for the untrained to handle. They learn how to handle their fear, how to protect themselves and how close to a fire you can stand without getting hurt. When it comes to the business world we are not talking about life-threatening risks. No one gets physically injured because profits are down. Surely if we can train ourselves to face raging fires and armed criminals while remaining calm and thinking rationally, we ought to be able to face a global financial crises.

Analyze your ghosts!

The ghosts you see and understand are not nearly as scary as the ones you don't. Often we are frightened of things without really understanding what it is we are really scared of. Potential risks become much easier to deal with if we identify them and analyze the impact these risks pose for us (as well as the probability that they will happen). May dad always says that 90% of the things we worry about never happen. Suppose you are worried about losing your job. The first question is how likely is it that it might happen? What would be the impact on you if it did happen? How hard would it be to get a new job? Would you have to take a pay cut or move to another town? What sacrifices would you have to make if you had to take a lower paying job or move to another town? By working through all the consequences you can develope an understanding of how you would handle the problem if it happened.

What's the worst that could happen?

Another trick is to ask yourself what is the worst that could happen? What is the worst that could happen at work? What would you do if the worst happened? Could you live with that? Could you handle the situation? If so, then you can get back to living your life and stop worrying! No one wants to lose their job or lose money on the stockmarket. When it happens it can be extremely challenging. Our emotions can swing from apathy to rage and back again. But being mentally prepared for the challenge, understanding the consequences and having at least a vague strategy for handling the situation can be a big help in meeting a crises. If you are feeling very brave you might even ask yourself what's the best that could happen? (A new, more interesting job with a better salary?) A crisis can be the catalyst you need to create positive change. Change in your life or in your organization!