• James Walton

Making the Most of a Bad Situation

My neighbor drives a red Audi hatchback with a bumper sticker that reads: Existence is pain. I chuckle every time I drive past it.

I don't share such a nihilistic perspective, but it's worth remembering that for much of our human existence, tragedy was normal and life was "nasty, brutish and short." (One of my favorite statistics to recall when feeling low is that the average life expectancy of an American born in 1900 was 47. A child born today can reasonably expect to see 80.)

Business leadership isn't much better. But we don't play this game because it's easy, but because overcoming difficult situations with a semblance of grace is how the world gets better, one difficulty at a time.

So here's a few thoughts about how we can make the most of a bad situation.

Avoid it entirely through a pre-mortem

Some situations arise unexpectedly and without warning. Most don't. In fact, a large portion of the difficulties we face are things we've faced before, or similar to them. At the onset of a project or initiative, take some time to do a "premortem" by assembling your team and asking, before it even begins, how this thing can fail. There are a thousand possibilities, but perhaps 5 most likely causes. Scenario plan responses to those 5. Even the simple act of acknowledging how a situation might go bad helps you prevent it from happening.

Move quickly from complaining to remedy

Interrogating the issue, not the person limits defensiveness and gets us to a solution quicker. Complaining, blaming, and shaming might feel good in the moment, but do little to accomplish anything productive to solve the matter at hand. When a bad situation occurs, focus on taking action to fix it.

Accept this this sucks and you'll get through it

Not everything is ideal. Obviously. But neither is everything fatal. Almost always, it could be worse, and taking a moment to express gratitude for what could have been, but wasn't, helps remove the sting of what is. Mentally reframing the difficulty as something other than wholly bad helps us see opportunity in the midst of difficulty.

And opportunity is the stuff of success.


At Trellis Group, we believe chaos is the enemy of the small business. It's our mission to partner with small business owners and their teams to develop the managerial practices and processes to crush chaos.

If you feel overwhelmed and need a proven system to focus on the next best thing, we can help. Companies who work with us see revenues go up, anxiety go down, and work becomes a force multiplier for good in the lives of your people.

Reach out to discover how the Trellis Group can help you crush chaos.


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