The six members of the leadership team entered the conference room looking preoccupied with the activities they abandoned to come to the team assessment debrief session. The team leader commented that the day had been like one fire drill after another.

Setting aside the agenda for a moment, I asked: How many days in a typical week turn out the way you planned? How about in a typical month? A typical year? The team had a quick consensus on all three questions: zero

The flow of the workshop assumed the character of the team: adaptable. Both the baseline assessment taken when the team was immersed in significant change and the recent follow-up survey unveiled the same core trait: poise under pressure. Their success as a team depended on it.

Most people adapt effectively under routine circumstances. Few, however, maintain their cool when the pressure is on or when unexpected events unfold. This is the test of a team’s health: the ability to recover following a disappointment, the capacity to stay focused on a goal when the risk of failure creates fear. While some leaders buckle under such conditions, others are nimble.

Consider your last crisis. Did you flinch? Did you freeze? Did you take thoughtful action? Every day is some variation of a fire drill. It’s how you adapt that matters most.

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  • cynthiakwade  On August 21, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Very well stated, Steve. And important from both a professional and personal perspective. I shared in my blog to increase awareness! Thanks for the lesson for the day!

  • Scot Witt  On August 21, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Amen. Exactly the sort of thing that occurs when an Agile Software Development Team is told 3/4th through the process that the client wants a major rework (Agile is supposed to allow for change up to software release). Often, a simple ‘that’s why we do it this way’ is enough. This is also why Agile Teams must have experienced members who have ‘bought into’ the process.

  • Javier mahmoud  On August 26, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Good stuff Steve. I enjoyed this one. This is so true. Our portfolio (sales) was just changed from one day to the next by one of our manufacturers. Not by our choice. This type of change and how our reps handle the curve ball thrown at them is very important.
    – Javier

    • teamclock  On August 26, 2012 at 11:01 am

      Exactly, Javier. Everyone has the right to their initial reaction to the change, whether it be frustration, disappointment, fear, or relief. How quickly you turn that energy into working the problem and embracing a new solution is what differentiates those who adapt effectively from those who don’t.

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