Not long ago, I was the keynote speaker at a (nameless) company’s annual meeting, hired to do a 2-hr. speech on personal responsibility, and hyped for weeks in advance.
With my stage time now five minutes away, and each prior segment having run excruciatingly long, the CEO leans over to me and whispers: “Can you cut your talk in half? We’re running way over.”
I knew it was more mandate than request, so unflinchingly I said, “Sure.” No sense bellyaching about time grossly mismanaged… I had bigger issues… like only five panic minutes to figure out Plan B, to quickly decide what to cut and not look foolish. But actually… not really.
Because as it so happened, I came prepared with two Plan As… a 2-hr. version and a 1-hr. version. And just between you and me, I could also have done 30 minutes or 90 minutes, if thrust in my lap. And no one would have been the wiser.
An old Chinese proverb says: Dig the well before you thirst.
My point: I hate Plan Bs. They are most always spur-of-the-moment options, not clearly thought-through, and therefore lesser quality and easily flubbed. I’m sure it’s happened to you: an interview or sales presentation gets cut short at the last minute… a big opportunity is suddenly twice the price you planned on… or a star employee resigns the day before a new client pitch, or day after the big win.
Questions For You: What do YOU do when conditions change unexpectedly? Stumble, fumble and choke? Quickly formulate an inferior Plan B? Fold your tent and go home?
Actions For You: May I suggest the wacky notion of having two Plan As. Each one as good as the other. Yes, it takes more up-front planning, but you’ll be glad you did when things blow up in your face. If you think two is cumbersome, read any book about military special forces teams. They plan missions for every eventuality down to the Nth detail, anticipating tiny movements that could go haywire, often with 30 or 40 contingencies. Each one pre-rehearsed ad nauseam. Does two sound so overwhelming now? Be the pro you signed up to be. Be ready.
Power Thought: “We must take change by the hand, or rest assured, change will take us by the throat.” Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister.
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