This article originally appeared in HuffPost.
I recently read a blog post from best-selling author and speaker Seth Godin that illustrated why some entrepreneurs succeed where others fail. He wrote, “Sometimes, when we’re lost, we refuse a map, even when offered. Because the map reminds us that we made a mistake. That we were wrong. But without a map, we’re not just wrong, but we’re also still lost. A map doesn’t automatically get you home, but it will probably make you less lost. (When dealing with the unknown, it’s difficult to admit that there might not be a map. In those cases, a compass is essential, a way to remind yourself of your true north…).”
As a business leader, you’ve got to trust your instincts, and make the choices that you feel are best for your business and your team. However, your business journey is bound to have peaks and valleys – and you’ve got to be ready for both. You’ve got to have a plan – a map – that you can follow when obstacles come your way. The business leaders who understand this are the ones who survive and thrive. Others who don’t have a map will get lost and learn their lesson the hard way. That doesn’t need to be you. Here are four steps to plan your way to success when the going gets tough:
Ego can be your enemy if you let it, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe you made a mistake or you were incorrect. Accept it. We all make a few wrong turns from time to time, but recognizing and owning up to our errors is the first step to righting the ship. If you let your ego get in the way and refuse to admit anything has gone awry, nothing will change – in fact, it will get a lot worse. Once you’ve established that there’s a problem, you can begin to solve it.
These may include family, friends or colleagues. Ask for help and really listen to what they have to say. Seeing things from different points of view will help you identify what needs to be done right away and what can wait. It will also allow you to see a way through a situation that you might never have thought about if you’d not reached out and asked for help.
Once you’ve heard from your trusted advisors, it’s time to make that plan. Set S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound) goals to outline where you want to go, how you’re going to get there and what could potentially get in your way. Take the first step and I promise you that the small acts and incremental changes that you make will add up over time.
That’s right. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you’re likely to get lost again. Keep your map close and make adjustments to the journey as you go. Part of being an effective leader is being humble enough to know that you can’t do everything yourself and that you’re not perfect. You’re human, and that’s a good thing. Knowing that you’re going to get lost again will allow you to be better prepared each time it happens.
Life as an entrepreneur (and in general) has a lot of ups and downs. That’s never going to change. However, the way you deal with those changes and the coping mechanisms you put in place to handle the challenges that come your way is totally up to you. Understand that you’ll occasionally be wrong. Accept that you’re going to need to ask for help to make it through the rough patches. Keep the map out while you’re on your journey. When you find new roads, add them to the map. And if things don’t work out, change your itinerary. If you do those things, I guarantee you’ll arrive just where you need to be, when you need to be there.