Hero or Victim: How do You Deal With a Crisis?

How do successful people respond to the challenges they face in life?

Posted Feb 27, 2017

When you must respond to an unexpected change in plans or a cataclysmic shift in the world as you know it, how are you most likely to respond? Think back to the last time you were presented with a difficult problem to solve, conflict to resolve, or crisis to weather. What was your response?

Your answer says a lot about how you approach obstacles and life, in general.

Some years back, at a business where I was doing some consulting, the strengths of a newly promoted manager were being communicated to the team. The quality that really resonated with a lot of people in the room was the comment that this new leader didn’t whine and complain or ignore the situation when she met a challenge. Instead, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work. That’s a pretty strong recommendation for someone taking on a new role when the organization is in the midst of leadership transitions and shrinking markets for their products.

What Type of Person are You?

It appears that people fall into three distinct categories when crises – large or small – strike. There are those that:

  1. Wring their Hands
  2. Twiddle their Thumbs
  3. Roll Up their Sleeves

Wringing of Hands

  • Do you feel unable to cope with changes in your life or the world around you?
  • Do you feel that you simply don’t have what it takes to cope with a crisis?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are likely to be the person who gets overwhelmed by change or crisis and stands on the sidelines wondering how OTHERS will deal with the issue or rescue you. You may go into “crisis mode” or “panic mode” regardless of how manageable a problem might be. These are the people who respond with a metaphorical – and, often, literal – wringing of their hands.

Twiddling of Thumbs

  • Do you assume that most problems are “other people’s” problems?
  • Do you take life so lightly that you ignore the small stuff until it becomes Big Stuff?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are likely to be the person who is standing on the sidelines totally unaware that the pink slip is coming at work or that your partner is about to break up with you. You seldom recognize when there actually is a problem that needs solving and you likely wander through life oblivious to the needs of others around you.

Rolling up the Sleeves

  • Do you believe that anyone who is not part of the solution is part of the problem?
  • Do you take pride in doing your “fair share” or helping others where you can?

If you answered yes to these questions, you provide leadership to others and are probably highly valued the people with whom you work or live. When the going gets tough, the old saying goes, the tough get going – and when challenges present themselves, it is the people who jump into action, rather than stand on the sidelines, that become the leaders in our midst. While you may not always know exactly what needs to be done, those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work usually have the necessary confidence to figure out the best way to help or to accept guidance from others. These folks don't feel the need to be viewed as experts, but they are willing to do what has to be done to resolve a problematic situation. They may take on the role of leader, but they may also just play the role of supporting teammate.

What’s the Best Response?

It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that those people who we find rolling up their sleeves and jumping into the fray are usually the most successful in life. It’s not that their solutions are always going to be perfect solutions or that their ideas are necessarily the best of the bunch, but they will be willing to share the burden and contribute their share to finding a workable solution.

Not everyone must offer the best answer or the most effective response at the moment a crisis happens or a challenge appears, but each of us can do our part by rolling up our sleeves and setting to work. Each of us can be a hero in some way if we are willing to become part of the solution and join forces to overcome barriers or surmount obstacles – on the job, at home, or in our communities.