How To Recover From a Setback

captain-america-861757_640Whenever superheroes and supervillains clash, there will inevitably be a high degree of collateral damage. Vehicles, buildings, even entire cities are destroyed when good and evil collide. But after the battle is over, who picks up the pieces? Who cleans up the rubble, replaces lost inventory, and compensates the victims after the dust has settled?

According to Marvel Comics, that would be Damage Control. Housed out of New York City’s Flatiron building, Damage Control was initially funded by a couple of billionaires before going public. This pseudo construction company exists to quickly get things back to normal (or as close to it as possible) following the epic showdowns that happen with regularity in a world inhabited by super-humans. Since its introduction in 1989, Damage Control has quietly come to the rescue in a number of movies, comics, and television series.

If only real-world businesses had Damage Control as back-up.

Who cleans up the mess when things go bad for your business? When good intentions have unintended consequences, who bails you out? When your best laid plans don’t pan out and you find yourself behind the growth curve, who rights the ship and gets it back on course?

As leaders, we can’t be content with developing an initial strategy and pressing the start button. Once the ship has set sail, we’re on it too. The captain has to be ready to step in when things go south in order to overcome setbacks. It’s up to us to provide the damage control. That’s because leaders – good leaders – are there for the good as well as the bad. Leaders are always leading.[Tweet “Leaders are there for the good as well as the bad. Leaders are always leading.”]

Consider the following steps to help your team get back on track following a setback.

  1. Keep your eye on the horizon. Last week I wrote about anticipating setbacks. Good leaders keep their eyes trained forward so they can see both opportunities and problems before it’s too late to act on them. When your focus shifts elsewhere for too long, say to celebrate past accomplishments or worry about some minute detail, issues can creep up on you. Pay attention to trends so you can anticipate what lies ahead.
  2. Act quickly to adjust course. Once an issue has been identified, you have to move swiftly in order to mitigate the damage. Some managers take their time analyzing the data before choosing a course of action. Some decide to wait, ignoring the problem in the hopes it will go away on its own. Neither is a good response. Waiting only allows the problem to grow and delays your ability to regain forward momentum. Develop a strategy and act on it.
  3. Use the experience to get better. Is there a way to prevent the same issue from popping up next year? Are there steps that could be taken sooner to speed up the recovery process in the future? Are there tweaks to the existing plan that need to be made that will help the business grow more efficiently? Once the problem is addressed, take a little time to incorporate what you’ve learned from the experience. That way the business will be stronger for having encountered this rough patch.

Hopefully you’ll never have to clean up after a super throw-down disrupts your business plan. Odds are, though, not everything will always go as planned. Instead of calling for Damage Control, commit to your own damage control strategy. That’s one way to make sure you and your team are the real heroes.


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