I was in a ride-sharing car with a timid driver (not a pretty sight in New York City!) in heavy traffic. I heard a siren closing in on us, and we were pulled over by a policeman. He admonished the driver for running a red light, took the driver’s license and registration, and disappeared into his patrol car for 17 minutes.
He gave the driver a ticket, as was totally predictable, but on lesser charges which should have been good news for the driver. But for the rest of the ride, the driver obsessed over the ticket and didn’t pay attention to doing his job. He behaved like a victim and spewed anger for the rest of the ride.
This episode is a good metaphor for leaders. When people get derailed, they often lose their focus. Leaders can’t afford these kinds of distractions, because they can trigger a ripple effect of other disruptions.
When you are hit by a negative, unexpected event, how you handle it directly influences the outcome. Said differently, it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about what happens to you.
Everyone periodically experiences something negative. When you don’t see it coming, it can be especially upsetting. The key is to not focus on the actual incident, rather than how you’re going to handle it. Your ability to reframe the situation and return to the business at hand will directly impact your attitude and results.
Being a victim drags you down. Take charge of the situation and create a solution that brings your focus to where it should be. Don’t let an exogenous event define you; rather, make sure you are in control of what you do next.