In the presence of trouble some people grow wings, others buy crutches.
-Harold W. Ruoff
Somerset Maugham, the English writer, once wrote a story about a janitor at St. PetersChurch in London. One day a young vicar discovered that the janitor was illiterate and fired him.
Jobless, the man invested his meager savings in a tiny tobacco shop. Where he prospered, bought another, expanded, and ended up with a chain of tobacco stores worth several hundred thousand dollars.
One day the man's banker said,"You've done well for an illiterate, but where would you be if you could not read and write?" The man replied, "I'd be janitor of St. Peter's in Neville Square."
A sign on an army chaplain’s door read, “If you have troubles, come in and tell us about them. If not, come in and tell us how you do it.” And this is a common thread most leaders share. While there are many rewards and benefits of being a leader it also means dealing with your fair share of someone else’s troubles.
The janitor in the story serves as an example of what to do when trouble knocks at your door. The janitor could have given up and allowed his unfortunate circumstances to be his undoing. Instead, he turned his setback into a prosperous venture. No one is immune from trouble. Each of us has a choice in how we respond. Here are Three C’s to help you make the most of your troubles and come out on top.
Count your blessings. In the difficult economic times we now live it can be easy to look at the negatives. Rising gas prices and unemployment numbers are enough to worry many. As a leader, you are the thermostat to which others in your organization are set. Your attitude in troubles times can make or break the morale of your business.
Gary Gulbranson said, “It’s not the magnitude of the mess that matters; it’s the measure of the man in the midst of the mess.” How true. Regardless of the situation you find yourself in, resolve not to be a whiner about misfortune, but a counter of blessings. No doubt the negatives can take a toll, but with the right attitude, you can lead your team even in the midst of troubled times.
Consider your options. When fired from his job, the janitor took his savings and invested in a tobacco shop. Eventually he became quite prosperous. The janitor demonstrated what can happen when you keep your options open. Had the janitor stayed at the church and continued in his work, as noble as it was, he never would have become the successful man he was.
Leaders understand the power of options. As you go forward in these challenging times, keep in mind that the troubles you face today can be unexpected blessings tomorrow. The fact that the janitor could not read was not a deal breaker. He had options and he called upon them as valuable resources to better his life. A wise leader will do no less.
Chart your course. When the janitor walked out of St. Peter’s Church he did so with purpose and a plan. Do you have one? Being fired from his job may have been insensitive but it was not irreversible. He took his savings and wisely invested it in a new business.
As a leader in these troubled times it is important to have a course of action that is known and communicated to your team. Howard Coonley said, “The executive of the future will be rated by his ability to anticipate his problems rather that to meet them as they come.” And this is the challenge of your leadership.
A Malay Proverb says, “Just because the river is quiet does not mean the crocodiles have left.” No one is exempt from troubles. Troubles for leaders can be transformed into opportunities if you count your blessings, consider your options, and chart your course.