On August 2, 2016 the Rio Olympics gave us a gift: the perfect metaphor for the intersection of absurdity and danger — a kayaker capsized after hitting a rogue sofa in Guanabara Bay. Apparently, although highly skilled and highly trained, this particular kayaker had no knowledge or training for what he should do should he encounter submerged furniture during a race. And what about scoring? Does the kayaker who doesn’t encounter a couch have an advantage? And what if it’s really a daybed that has been misrepresented in the media?
Even though you have hired top talent and trained them to excel at their jobs, can you really be sure that they won’t encounter the organizational equivalent to a sunken sofa? Or that decision-makers will know how to handle unexpected, unpleasant and untimely surprises? Most executives in most companies know what they need to do to make the day-to-day decisions that get products out the door, but what of the unwelcome intruder that pushes its way in? For this contingency, you’ll need a different sort of person — a person who embodies good judgment, solid morals, experience and fortitude. In short, you’ll need a person who can make the tough calls. You’ll know you have this sort of person on your team when you meet a person who:
- Knows how to clearly establish a goal before defining the tactics for achieving it
- Prioritizes well
- Doesn’t get mired in inconsequential details
- Doesn’t take “no” for an answer
- Creates order during chaos
- Understands how to solve complicated, unfamiliar problems
- Can multitask successfully
How many people can resist the temptation of checking behind the shower curtain when entering a new restroom? But if they were to encounter a bad guy in a ski mask lurking in the tub with an Uzi in his hand, what’s the plan?
Your company needs people who don’t need a plan, people who will think on their feet and respond favorably to surprises. Only then can you be reasonably certain that you have a strategy that won’t flounder and founder with the first hidden obstacle.