expect the unexpected - Blog Top Image

Expecting the Unexpected

We don’t like to think about the worst case scenario. It can cause stress and worry, and all we want to do is focus on the good. But without considering what could go wrong, we’re inviting the wrench to be thrown into our plans, and have everything fall out of whack. Being prepared allows stress and worry about the “what if” to fade away. 

Trudy is a realtor employed at a relatively small firm, working with around 20 other staff and averages between 4-6 clients at a time. She’s been working there for nearly 6 years, and in that same time, she’s gotten married and is 7 months pregnant with their first child. She’s begun to contemplate what will happen when she goes on maternity leave soon… 


It’s Personal

So, instead of avoiding the worst case or the unexpected, take time to think it through.

  • What could happen?
  • What would you be able to do about it?
  • Is there something you can’t do, but someone else you know can?
  • How would you ask for help? 

Trudy worries about a few things: the unpredictability of labor and pregnancy in general, deciding which tasks to place priority on vs. those that could wait until her return, and who will handle those priority tasks on her behalf. Trudy plans to begin her leave soon so she isn’t caught unexpectedly with a client or while at work, and she can separate her tasks into those two groups. She also knows she has friends among her coworkers, and that they’d certainly be willing to help out if she asked. 

Asking for help is one of your best actions.

You can utilize your relationships - such as family, friends, and coworkers - to fill in the gaps of our skills or knowledge, seek support, and build goodwill. If the worst happened, who could you rely on? Make a list of all your contacts - you can even organize it by purpose: this group of people can support you professionally, while this other group can support you personally. Need more support asking for help? Here are some more tips.

Trudy has her family for support, and helpful coworkers to take care of her clients while she’s away. 


Make the effort to take care of your mental health.

Prepare yourself emotionally for the worst case scenario. When thinking it through logically, pay attention to how you feel, and plan for how you would respond. How do you usually handle stress, or what are your regular coping strategies? Maybe snuggling with your pet typically works for a hard day at work, but the worst case is handled better with a bubble bath. 

Not only is Trudy worrying about work, but also one of the biggest changes and challenges she will face. Before she was pregnant, Trudy’s go-to stress reliever was taking bubble baths. Now that it’s hard to get in and out of the tub, she’s switched to eating her favorite foods and reading her favorite books. She makes sure she takes time out of her day to unwind. 


It’s Business

If you haven’t heard the term risk management, you might be living under a rock. Risk management is all about assessing and planning. If you’re thinking through the worst case scenario, you’re thinking of what could go wrong. You’re assessing the situation and the possible outcomes, pitfalls, and challenges - in other words, risks. 

There are many risks that Trudy faces, both personally and in business. She knows her clients prefer the hands-on, people-first approach she’s been providing. What if her coworkers simply don’t match this and her clients become unhappy? How will the transition in coming back to work go? 


Switch into action planning

Now that you’ve asked yourself “what could go wrong?” you can switch into action planning. Those thoughts of “what would I do?” or “what would the organization do?” is thinking of possible solutions. You plan for the action you, the team, and the organization can and will take in response. Maybe you find you, the team, or the organization don’t have the skills or knowledge to handle the worst yet. This is where learning and development strategy comes into play. Invest in yourself and the organization through training! Your Clear Next Step is here for that! Check out the individual training How to Stay Grounded or the blog Dealing With Uncertainty for yourself, and Do You Mind? for your organization.  

It’s helped Trudy to plan ahead for her clients. She’s informed them of her leave and has distributed them to various coworkers in her absence. She discussed the transition with her coworkers, and has taken the time to introduce her clients to their new agents. 


Systematization prepares you and your organization

One way you can help prepare yourself and your organization for the worst is to systematize. It’s a liability for the responsibility, access, or knowledge to rest solely on one person. Cross-train, share file locations, and create task “succession” plans for when things go wrong. This ensures work still gets done, and it takes a lot of pressure off yourself! Imagine being able to take vacation without worrying whether all can go on without you! 

Can production stop when Trudy takes maternity leave? Not if the firm would like to keep their clients happy and their revenue. So, she’s distributed her clients and shared files, and doing so has alleviated the stress of leaving. She even feels better about taking that 2 week vacation next summer!


What have you done to prepare for the worst? How can you help others plan successfully for the risks they’ll inevitably face? 

Topics: Sinikka Waugh, Change & Transition

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! contactus@yourclearnextstep.com








Receive a weekly dose of inspiration in your inbox by signing up for our weekly newsletter