When given a choice, most leaders would prefer an economic climate that offered smooth sailing or, better yet, a high tide. Realistically, though, we know there will be storms to weather. March 2020 created a unique time in history when all business leaders were in the same boat, weathering the same storm: the pandemic. Whether you were struggling to staff an essential business, dealing with supply chain problems, or pivoting operations that were coming to a halt, we all had to review our standard procedures and make changes—and fast.
In times of crisis, the natural first reaction might be to believe that you can’t redefine possible for you and your company. But as one of my mentors, billionaire Spencer Hays, always said, “There are two types of people in this world: one finds an excuse, the other finds a way. It doesn’t take guts, gumption, or determination to find an excuse. Anybody can locate one. It takes quality people to find a way over, under, around, or right through any obstacle that stands in their way.”
At Southwestern Consulting, COVID-19 forced us to redefine possible. We experienced an 80 percent cancellation rate on our workshops that were held in person. Clients were putting payments on hold, and our team members began to question how they could do their jobs. Quickly accepting our circumstances, we focused on what we could control, and we channeled the negative event into positive momentum that transformed our company.
Our actions were based on a technique I developed called RAFT. It’s a strategy for holding strong to your vision and your goals when life throws obstacles in your way, and it can help with adversity of all kinds—even pandemics. By applying the rules, you can empower yourself and your team to quickly overcome obstacles and resist excuses. Here’s how it works:
R: Realize an event is happening to you
The first step is awareness. Instead of putting your head in the sand and ignoring a situation, you must realize that there is a problem. Sometimes, an event is obvious, such as a global health crisis. But often they’re more subtle, such as something that slows down your progress. This could be a toxic employee or a best practice that is no longer relevant. When your goals and plans start going off track, look for the underlying event.
A: Accept that the event is occurring
It’s natural to resist an event, especially when it feels unwarranted or extreme. In fact, an event can make for a great excuse. Colleagues and friends may think they’re supporting you by helping you to find blame or by distracting you so you can avoid the pain. But no matter how you choose to handle it, it’s crucial that you accept that an event has happened. As my business partner and coauthor Ron Alford says, “It is my resistance to ‘what is’ that causes my suffering in life.”
F: Focus on what you can control
An event may happen to you, but there are three things you can control: your attitude, your schedule, and your actions. Attitude is a choice. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
It may not always feel like it, but your schedule is also a choice. While you may feel overwhelmed with meetings and demands, you ultimately determine how you spend your time.
Finally, you get to choose your actions. No matter what you decide to do, you control every next step you take. Choose them wisely. When you take responsibility for the things you can control and stop making excuses about events that happen to you, you can begin to redefine possible.
T: Transform the negative event into positive momentum
Has anyone ever told you that you couldn’t do something? You may have harnessed that emotion to drive you forward and prove them wrong. Just like a naysayer, a negative event or even a trauma can become a powerful tool for growth when you channel it into something positive.
For example, Brett Favre played one of the best football games of his life the day after his dad died, leading his team to victory in the NFC North Division title that year. Serena Williams suffered a life-threatening pulmonary embolism in 2011 that forced her off the tennis courts for nearly a year. But she came back to win her fifth singles title at Wimbledon and earn a gold medal in the singles event at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
Unfortunately, negative events will likely happen to you and your business. The RAFT technique helped the leadership team at Southwestern Consulting face circumstances that were completely out of our control. Our business model had been created for us to meet with our clients in person, conduct workshops in offices, give speeches to full rooms, and fly across the country to shadow and support our team members in their home offices. While the pandemic did take that away from us, it didn’t take our mindset and how we chose to respond to these uncontrollable forces. We were already operating from a positive framework. By the end of April 2020, our coaches had booked more workshops than they had in April 2019.
An incredible transformation takes place when a person embraces adversity instead of running from it. The event becomes like performance fuel. By accepting an event, focusing on what you can control, and turning it into positive momentum, you, too, can redefine possible and take your organization to the next level.
Written by Dustin Hillis.