Question Time with Mentor John – Handling a difficult situation

Question Time with Mentor John – Handling a difficult situation

Question Time with Mentor John – Handling a difficult situation

Everyone knows the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” However, there are two ways of interpreting this. Firstly, in difficult times, those who are resilient will work hard to solve the challenges. And secondly, when people who had initially appeared to be tough find that they cannot cope, they leave quickly. Which type of person are you? Mentor John shares his advice on how to handle difficult situations better.

I tend to panic and freeze in difficult situations. How do I get my brain back in order in stressful conditions?

Panic is a bad response whatever the urgency of the situation. To change your attitude about panicking remember that you are not omnipotent – you don’t control everything and you cannot be held responsible for everything. On coming across a disaster, stop and think. Ask yourself what needs to happen urgently – stop someone bleeding, start another person breathing. In life-saving situations you need to act fast but you certainly must not panic. Most situations will be less than life-threatening. That gives your a little more time to think. But suppose you are suddenly confronted with an accusation about something you have done – a dereliction of duty or a failed project – how do you respond to such accusations? First of all get your accusers sitting down. Temperatures lower when everyone is seated. Then ask them to spell out the details of their accusation. Make notes (possibly even record, but perhaps not at first, later on) what they say. All this gives you time. If you need to, ask for time to consider what they are saying and for a few hours to get the situation straight. It is your right to do this if the accusation is serious.Whatever you do, do not get into a row with them.

One of my employees has messed up big time. Do I make an example of him/ her?

When I was building Cerebos Pacific Ltd (Brand’s Essence of Chicken) I would do the following. If the issue was poor business judgment, bad luck, over-ambitious trading, I called a meeting at 10 am with the person who had caused the trouble and all the department heads who might suffer from it or who might have done the same thing themselves. First thing I did then was to open a bottle of champagne and give each person a thimbleful to celebrate the fact that they were going to learn how to avoid a disaster. Then I got the person responsible to explain what had happened, how s/he had messed up and what not to do (or what to do) to avoid repeating the same mistake. Then I had a little time for questions. 90-minutes in all. Everyone appreciated it – and learnt a lot.

Making an example of people occasionally works in very special situations. I used it about once every three years but for a very particular reason and in a thought-through way. Normally, it is a sign of weakness. Of course, if the issue was theft or serious misbehaviour, simply call the police and let them handle the issue.

How do I handle a fraud in the business? What if the culprit is a good friend of mine?

Breaking the law for a friend is wrong. Fraud is wrong. I always call the police. Then I think of all the mitigating circumstances I can plead for the fraudster. I help him or her through the court process and afterwards. Kindness is making the law work properly, not avoiding it.

My fear of failure is keeping me back. Can I overcome this?

The good news is YES you can. The bad news is that it does take time and sweat and tears. They are well worth it. I have met literally thousands of people with fear of failure. All have recovered. How? They go through a lot of purposely-written roleplays relating to the situations at work and outside work. These are as close to real life for them as we can get them. They are often quite frightening situations. Clients sometimes cry a little. The roleplays turn out to be real life occasionally. A client is especially grateful for the work they have done then. What is the word I hear most from clients who have been successfully rid of fear of failure? BOLD. They have become sensibly – and happily – bold. And they quickly get to more senior jobs.