Good leaders deal well with adversity

Ten years ago, I traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah for a day-long session on Respectful Communication with a group of engineers. I don’t think I have ever had a trip with quite so many mishaps. It started at the Columbus Airport when I set off the alarm walking through the screening machine. Turns out I had left my cell phone in my pocket. Hurriedly, I placed it in a plastic bowl so they could run it through the machine. I quickly gathered up my possessions and proceeded to my gate. As the plane began its taxi to the runway I reached down to turn off my phone as instructed. To my dismay, I realized I had left it on the conveyor belt at the screening station! At that point, there was nothing I could do except take a deep breath and enjoy the flight.

In Salt Lake City, I picked up my rental car and began my drive to Layton, UT. As soon as I got onto the interstate, a truck launched a rock hitting the center of my windshield creating a nugget size divot!

I proceeded to my hotel and arrived only to be informed the phone system was out of order and would most likely not be working until the next day! Gratefully, one of the hotel staff members was kind enough to let me use her phone long enough to check in with my wife and call my insurance company about the broken windshield.

Enjoyably, the temperature was 87 when I arrived. Unfortunately, it dropped 50 degrees by the next morning. Driving rain and sleet soaked me as I tried to find my client’s building in the huge and unfamiliar complex. I was unable to find the lobby and mistakenly made my way through the shipping area until I finally reached the appropriate destination 20 minutes before the session started!

I suddenly realized I had to shake off the series of unfortunate events that had haunted me for the past 24 hours and focus my positive thoughts and energy on my clients’ needs for the day. The session was a good one despite the two engineers who expressed disagreement with their personal responsibility to be respectful while they accomplished their work!

When I called my wife and shared how my trip was going, she commented on how great it was I stayed so positive when everything seemed to be going wrong. I had a job to do and, even though the number of unpleasant events were troubling,

I realized it was critical to stay positive and focus on my clients and their needs. In the end, things turned out well. My clients were pleased with the results of the session, I picked up my cell phone on the way back home and the windshield was covered by my car insurance.

It would have been easy to get angry and allow my negative experiences influence the quality of my program. Good leaders don’t let adversity interfere with getting the job done. Sometimes things don’t go as expected, but the best leaders keep their heads, deal with each event and stay positive.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s new book, “And my Brother Jack: Everyday Leadership Lessons,” visit his website raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.


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