Ron Howard’s movie Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks is one of my favorites. The movie chronicles the Apollo 13 space mission that was to carry four astronauts to the moon. Instead of landing on the moon, the mission was scrubbed when an explosion onboard the spacecraft changed everything. It was a combination of worse-case scenario and greatest achievement all in one event.
Anyone who has seen the movie knows the line by Tom Hanks, who portrays astronaut Jim Lovell, as he utters those infamous words, “Houston, we have a problem.” The other equally impressive line is from Ed Harris who plays the role of NASA flight director Gene Kranz who said, “With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”[Watch the clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOkAyUmyQkov=eOkAyUmyQkov=eOkAyUmyQko] Those were two signature statements. One of which diagnosed the new reality as it existed, and the other was the way in which they would be remembered for handling it.
How does the same set of negative circumstance make a disaster for one person and success for another? What makes the difference between disaster for one and the finest hour for another? There are a few things worth remembering when it comes to leadership and how to handle a crisis.
Not everything will go according to script. Years of work and preparation went into the launch of Apollo 13, and the defect that caused the explosion was in place before the Apollo 13 crew was even named.
When all heck breaks loose in your office just remember that not everything will go according to script- life just happens. Thomas Edison said, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” How you react when things blow up will determine for you a positive outcome or a negative one.
Success is discovered in adversity. Now and then a bump in the road is a good thing to keep ideas fresh and flowing. We can get so accustomed to smooth sailing that when challenges come we don’t know how to react. Ed Harris had another great line in the movie. “We’ve never lost an American in space we’re sure as hell not going to lose one on my watch. Failure is not an option!” Faced with adversity, his approach was clear and emphatic. What is your approach to adversity?
Horace wisely said, “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.” Your ability to succeed in the face of adversity will not be far-fetched when you embrace what comes your way with a determination to overcome. It’s not that you expect things to blow up, but when it does, failure will not be an option.
Great minds work together. When faced with the challenge of bringing the crew home alive with near impossible conditions, the NASA crew rose to the occasion and did the unthinkable.
Creativity within your organization should be encouraged and promoted. In his book, Rules of Thumb, Alan M.Webber writes, “Most companies have people who are nothing but idea people and others who are implementers. You need them both. Great idea people are rare-and also frequently hard to live with. They see things the rest of us can’t see, which is their gift. They can’t see what you and I can see easily, which is their burden. Still, you need them and they need a home where they can contribute. Your job is to build a bridge the great ideas can walk across, from those who have them to those who make them real.”
It’s been said, “Great minds think alike.” If that is the case in your organization, be concerned. If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking much at all. I submit that great minds work together, pooling the resources of the best and brightest.
The next time things blow up around you, just remember, you are not alone. When times are tough and adversity strikes, let your confident words be, “I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”
© 2009 Doug Dickerson