Do you like surprises? Only the good ones, right? Plenty of leaders hate the unexpected, unless it involves windfall profits. (One was recently overheard joking, “I like surprises. I just want to know about them in advance.”)

Many leaders have a “no surprises” policy when it comes to hearing news from their direct reports. Two critical aspects of a “no surprises” policy:

Tell me right away. Leaders expect that they’ll get informed of vital stuff as soon as it happens.

Don’t filter essential information. No spinning, interpreting or otherwise sanitizing the facts. Leaders want their truth straight up.

You want open communication from your team. In order to get it, you must monitor your reaction to surprising information.  How do you as a leader respond to the unexpected?

Get used to it. Surprises are part of the new reality. You can’t allow every bolt from the blue to derail you. Denis Waitley said, “Expect the best, plan for the worst and prepare to be surprised.”

Don’t kill the messenger. Want to guarantee that you won’t know what’s really going on? Jump all over the person who brings you the bad news.

Gather facts dispassionately. Your first step must be gaining a full understanding of the magnitude and impact of the surprise. Ask questions to gauge what happened and how it affects key stakeholders.

Learn from surprises. After the crisis has passed, do a postmortem analysis of the root causes and what you should have anticipated. Take action to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Big surprises are big opportunities to learn and grow. You can use the unanticipated as a springboard for deepening your understanding of your business reality. Or you can try in vain to control all aspects of your world (not a good choice).

You can’t avoid surprises. How you handle the unexpected says a lot about your leadership. Are you the rock for your team or do you allow the unexpected to throw you off your game?

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!