Yes, another installment in the “professionalism” area, however, note that being prepared for almost anything is a tenet of great human performance. Defense-in-depth truly is stopping an error before it turns into something worse. Show your peers or management that you have it covered and that you own any situation you come across, because you are someone who know what it is like to be prepared. Okay, now the hard part – What situations do I need to get prepared for? Let me name a specific few (Author’s note: There are approximately 3.5 million more situations, give or take 3 million-ish):
Job interviews, elevator speeches describing what you do, dinner conversations, starting tasks, performing in front of an audiences, taking a trips on an airplane, cooking, camping… and the list goes on. Why is this list important to start out with? Each of the chosen items have some kind of negative outcome if they aren’t successful…
Let’s see what it could look like:
(Situation – negative potential outcome – how it makes you feel – exaggerated example given sentence)
1. Job interview – not selected as a candidate – confidence and self esteem are at risk (e.g. “I have high expectations – like how much my salary will be”)
2. Elevator speech – unprofessional perception – makes you feel like a poor communicator and that could be a main part of your role at work (e.g. “I’m in sales and I sell things. Nice things. You would like them.”)
3. Dinner conversation – not interesting – makes you feel like you don’t have anything noteworthy to talk about and that diminishes confidence (e.g. “How about this normal weather we’ve having…what’s with that?”)
4. Starting a task – not safe and error prone – you feel wary that you could get hurt or cause an event (e.g. “Are we even on the correct unit?)
5. Performing in front of an audience – unprofessional perception – feel unqualified and overall sense of shame (e.g. “I finally found the old lesson plan right before class and had a chance to glance at it, so the next 8 hours should be a breeze”)
6. Taking a trip on an airplane – lost, late and unprofessional – it feels scary to be in an unknown place with no plan of travel or map (e.g. “So, I’m at the terminal, should I wait for them to call my name?”
7. Cooking – wasteful, unorganized – feels immature to not know how to put a meal together without burning something or mismatching foods (e.g. “Let’s have scrambled eggs, rice, tater tots, and spaghetti tonight.”)
8. Camping – lost, hungry, tired and sick – feels scary to not know where you are and what you will be having for your next meal (e.g. “Now that we’re finally in the middle of the wilderness let’s set up camp. Did you remember to bring the tent poles?” “Ummm, no, they wouldn’t fit in my backpack, but I brought the George Foreman grill if you’re hungry.”)
Enough examples – you get the idea, now let’s get prepared:
Some of this is about preventing a negative perception of you and protecting the desired perception of you. There HAS to be some tools or ideas that can help, right? That’s why you’re here… An old friend of mine used to say before a pre-job brief, “Let’s get ready to get ready.”
First you do need to know the potential situations you could get in ahead of time. Do you have a fire drill plan for your home fire for given fire locations – and is it different or always the same? Do you know how big of an animal would cause you to slam on your brakes and get hit from behind because that’s the safest thing to do for the vehicle you’re driving? What are those things you should have a plan for but maybe don’t?
After you identify the potential situation, you need to think in Aubrey Daniels (shout out to still-effective old school HU!) terms and apply A-B-C Analysis backwards – what is the Consequence you want in stated situation, how should you Behave in the situation to get the desired consequence, and what are your Antecedents driving your behavior that are within your control? The antecedents are the main part of preparation – this is within your control right now (before a mistake or failure).
Practice, practice, practice – if the task is physical, create muscle memory, and if it’s mental, find lower tiered (think Bloom’s taxonomy here) knowledge you can memorize to help you plan a strategy. Having plans for all types of situations (I encourage using checklists, too) will reduce anxiety and lower any stress you may have when you think about being prepared or not. Click here for a great short video on preparing for emergencies.
Some more links to help inform and entertain you:
Click here for the old Boy Scout motto commercial
Click here for the Boy Scout skit called Be Prepared
Click here for funny music video about being prepared
Click here for a marketing video short about always being ready – “Have a message that fits the moment”
“Practice makes perfect”
Click here for Japanese precision doesn’t happen on accident – checkout 1:51 and beyond on this clip – WOW
Click here for some very funny Magician teamwork
I think I’m starting to pick up what you’re putting down!
Identify potential situations, derive appropriate antecedents to protect your behavior in these situations, and practice every chance you get.