Inevitably, and even when all details have been finalized, something can, and will, go wrong. For example, recently, I was scheduled to make a presentation to an audience comprised of about 100 people and my trusty alarm clock broke at the exact time I had set it to wake me. When I awoke much later than I had planned, it was close to the time I was to begin my presentation. I had several choices to make, including whether to take a shower, eat breakfast, or just get dressed and drive, fast, to the place where the speech was to be made. I decided it was better to be on time than to be spotlessly clean or well fed. I also decided to act as if nothing unusual had happened and instead, to conduct myself in the professional manner the people in the audience (all of whom were current or prospective clients) expected. When unexpected things happen, one has the ability to decide how to react: with shock, outrage, and other similar destructive emotions or with the recognition that “the show must go on.” It is this reaction to the unexpected that often distinguishes the true professional from an amateur.
Though with some issues, like alarm clocks, one can anticipate and take additional steps, like setting 2 alarms, it is impossible to anticipate every contingency. The key to getting the job done is adaptation and not letting “them” see you sweat. What we try to instill in employees, who, as young professionals are often employed by us as their first “real” employer, is the client doesn’t care about any excuse they/we may have. The only thing they – the client – and we, as employers, care about is getting the job done as planned. Probably because our work as trial consultants involve defined project time frames for mock trial type research, we are particularly sensitive to finding solutions while not creating more stress for our already stressed clients. So, another key is thinking ahead to minimize problems then reacting as calmly as possible when something goes wrong. Melissa’s calm and proactive reaction to the failure of her previously trusty alarm clock was such that no one ever would have guessed there was a problem. And, I did drive fast to get her to the show, so that the show did go on!