It’s an expression many of us use. Perhaps you have employed it yourself whether contemplatively when at the crossroads of a potential change at work or through some life-altering event.
You suffer a flat tire, and there is no spare in the trunk. Now what?
A noisy neighbor moves in next door, who smokes cannabis on their balcony every night. Now what?
A larger firm acquires the company you work for. Now what?
Your boss stiffs you with an unreasonable project deadline. Now what?
There are countless “now what” situations and circumstances that can affect our daily mood, our engagement, and even our happiness.
We may not always be able to control what happens before a “now what” scenario presents itself, but far too often—in my experience working with leaders and team members—we tend to lose sight that we have control of what happens after.
If a tire on our vehicle suffers a puncture, we did not have much power to control the situation in advance of it happening. Neglecting to put a spare tire in the vehicle’s trunk is foolish. However, we have complete control in the manner in which we control what happens next. We can choose to be miserable, or we can remain positive and look at what we might learn, who we might meet, and how we can do things differently the next time a tire may go flat.
Any time we face the challenge of a “now what” moment, it’s our attitude that can make or break the situation. There will be more flat tires in the future, but how you handle it attitudinally might predicate future success and happiness.
In our organizations, we face “now what” moments on a daily basis. As employees, it is to be expected. How are you handling them? What sort of behaviors are you exhibiting?
In part, we ought to know ridiculous situations are bound to pop up. A colleague forgets to send in a graphic or piece of research by the end of the day as was requested. Did you build in a time buffer? Did you establish a reminder in your calendar system to follow up? Did you have a backup plan? These are all proactive “now what” behavior changes for you to consider.
Let’s assume none of those behaviors were enacted. What can you do after this scenario unfolds?
You could choose to berate your colleague, send a nasty email or text, or “manage up” and report to their direct manager that the deliverable was missed. What would that accomplish? You might feel good for a moment—even gleeful that you got the delinquent into trouble—but your venomous spite did nothing help you the next time. You ended up exhibiting behaviors that make people cringe, for which word will eventually get around that you are a bit of a bully if not a corporate clown.
Instead, what if you took a moment to professionally and tactfully discuss with your colleague the importance of that missing piece.
What if you chose the “glass half full” approach, and waded into the situation with positivity and empathy.
Sure, you may have missed your deadline, but at that moment you have risen above the scenario, acted with the utmost professionalism, and demonstrated a far more constructive manner in which to be known. It may not help immediately but think of it as planting a seed. In the future, a flourishing garden of goodness will inevitably be harvested.
There is one additional “now what” concern to ponder in the workplace. It has to do with your role.
When the “now what” questions of your role go unanswered, it is time to consider making a career change.
For example, if your direct leader places too many demands, too many bewildering requests, and too few opportunities to be creative or inventive, it’s no longer a case of answering the “now what” question about your current role. The quick answer to “now what” is to find another role.
If the organization stagnates your growth, does not operate in alignment with your values or personal purpose, or treats you and others disrespectfully, the answer to “now what” is to find another role in another organization as soon as is possible.
If your team is full of narcissistic bullies, employing selfish tendencies, and acting myopically without any concern for sharing or collaborating, your “now what” answer is to find another team, perhaps in another organization altogether.
In summary, we face “now what” situations in both life and work. They are a constant. We may not be able to control what happens before these circumstances present themselves but can be in charge of what occurs after.
So go ahead and ask yourself, now what?