Have you ever had an “oh no” moment as an advisor?
- Your client breaks down in tears unexpectedly.
- Your client presents a problem and you absolutely have no clue as to how to help or what to do next.
- You arrive prepared for a strategic planning meeting, only to find that the client wants you to solve a family conflict–now!
- You walk into a situation in which your client appears to be acting illegally or unethically.
- You thought that your client had all of the legal documents he or she needed, signed and ready to protect the business–then find out that they don’t.
- Surprise, your client just hired junior to take over a senior position and no one knew about it until he walked into his new office.
The list could go on and on. In over 30 years of doing this work, I am amazed at how often I can be surprised by what I bump into in my role as an advisor and coach.
I find that the best way to handle these situations is be prepared, resourceful, unflappable and focused on moving forward. Here are some of my ‘go-to’ solutions that I can whip out or conjure up with only a moment’s notice:
- Take a deep breath before you answer. Even MacGyver would agree–you need a clear head to successfully tackle a tough problem. Resist the temptation to respond immediately. Take a moment to breath, clear your head, gather your thoughts and then respond.
- In highly emotional situations, it is easy to become ‘ungrounded’. This is a feeling of being out of control and out of touch with the situation. When I am caught by surprise or experience a surge of emotion, I shift my position to ensure that both of my feet are firmly on the ground and I push my big toe hard into the floor. This helps me to restore energy and feeling to my extremities. It shifts focus from my emotional brain to my physical body – a very important step in moving the mind toward being present and primed to solve problems.
- Develop a serious of phrases and questions that will buy you some time as you get the lay of the land. Here are some of my favorites:
- “Wow, this is quite a change. May I ask you a few questions to help me fully understand?”
- “I like to be kept on my toes, so great job! I am curious about how you got to this point. Can you give me some background?”
- “Yes, I can see that this is a really challenging situation and I’d like to figure out if I can actually add some value. Why don’t you tell me a bit about what’s going on?”
- “You’ve asked a really good question. I need to think about that a moment and see what resources I can muster. If I can’t help you, I’m sure we can find someone who can.”
- “It looks like you’ve made some significant changes/decisions since we last spoke. I am really curious to learn what precipitated the change/decision. Can you give me some background?” I often follow this up with: “What have you experienced since you implemented this?” or “How are you feeling now that you have implemented this?”
Finally, be prepared to alter your course quickly if need be. I always come prepared with a computer filled with potential worksheets. So, if a client presents a new problem, I can both buy time and gather really useful information.
Recently, I came to a meeting prepared to begin work on a strategic plan, but the company owner had recently been approached by a potential investor who wanted to talk about an acquisition. So, instead, I printed out a copy of our prospectus planning document and we spent two hours working through the questions and brainstorming ideas. The session was a great success.
You will find a host of free worksheets and exercises in your membership resource library. Be a MacGyver advisor and always come prepared!