At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.  The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.  After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.



I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.



I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind).  One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.


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Here’s where SBP gets interesting for you. Once you have built a full good mix of the problem dimensions and ways each dimension manifests itself, you can create randomized scenarios that are likely to happen and work on them. What this does is create an exercise for you on how to handle good times and bad times. I’ve seen this work in virtually every industry, from cybersecurity and insurance to automotive and cable TV, small business to non-profits.

What you will begin to observe firsthand with the SBP approach is that leaders and organizations that do this regularly are able to deal with uncertainty much better than others. They are not stunned as hard as everyone else. They know how to rebound from problems because, as leaders, they took time to think about problem situations and solutions ahead of time. They even see issues coming before anyone else and make adjustments. I call this wisdom.

Your challenge as a leader is to think more creatively, pivot faster, and instill confidence in your people. They need to know that you've got this—that as a team, we've got this. They need you to remind them of the game plan you talked about: if (xyz) scenario comes up, we adjust to game plan (xyz) and run with it. In positive situations we call this visionary leadership. You have the vision, the sight, the wisdom to see opportunities to grow, adjust or react before others because you have played these issues out already.

A Leader with Vision

Most importantly, leaders with vision provide a way to take back some degree of control and confidence in situations where people feel they’ve been robbed of both. People follow leaders who have a plan—a plan they can trust. So begin to look at the issues of this COVID-19 and how it affects you and your business, your team, your family etc… and how you need to prepare— even if it’s just on paper, create different potential directions to go. Ask questions like, “What if the business world changes all together? What if people have to stay home for months and work from home? How will my/our business change? What do I need to do? What are the long-term challenges and what are the opportunities? What are the key markers that signal pulling the trigger on plans? Good leaders plan this way. They turn challenges into opportunities and then play the cards they dealt.

Hard times do not make your leadership—they reveal it. So, begin your strategic planning. COVID-19 is a scenario for us all that many never planned on. What you do now will shape your role as leader as you pave the way for your team.

None of us like uncertainty. We like predictability and control, especially as leaders.

Uncertainty in any form takes an enormous toll on us; it robs us of control and confidence. We love sports because the rules are definitive and immutable (sort of). In the absence of certainty, we struggle to focus. Many feel that without control we lose trust in people and systems that we otherwise do not question—we are seeing this a lot right now. In its worst case, uncertainty leads to creating a crisis narrative of existential proportions. Let’s face it, humans are drawn to drama—we have an entire industry all about creating drama: TV news. The drama of uncertainty and rightful concern surrounding COVID-19 is beginning to take its toll on each of us as individuals, and, certainly, our businesses.

How Does this Affect you as a Leader?

As a medical professional, you are in leadership roles daily. Maybe you own a practice, are the head of a department or take the lead during one-on-one consultations with patients. People are looking to you to lead. Your role is not to predict the future, sugarcoat or sidestep the truth, but to provide a protected space for those you lead to feel confident that they will be cared for and best protected from the implications of uncertainty.

An Uncertain Scenario

So, how do you do that? I’ve found one technique to be extraordinarily effective in going beyond the dogma and providing people with a


tool to navigate uncertainty with confidence. It’s called scenario-based planning (SBP). There are many articles available online about this tactic.

Scenario-based planning is a tool that many leaders don’t use in their tool kits. Unfortunately, even when it is used it is often used incorrectly. SBP is an exercise in which you identify a variety of threat or opportunity scenarios and then play each one out. You have to use your imagination. These scenarios can be positive or negative. The intent of SBP is not to predict the future; it’s not even to identify all possible futures. Instead, the most valuable part of this leadership strategy is to develop an organizational muscle that inspires confidence in dealing with uncertainty.

The most important thing to keep in mind in SBP is that you need to clearly define the dimensions of the challenge. Then identify at least six to eight ways that each dimension could manifest itself. In other words, if you run a coffee shop one dimension could be the loss of adequate inventory. So play that scenerio out: we might break down the type of inventory (coffee/tea/milk/alternative drinks), the geography of the inventory (African/Latin American/domestic), the storage of the inventory (in-store/brewery/warehouse).