BRAIN FOOD: Your route to the top - How to deal with unpleasant surprises

Stay calm, even smile. Your mood will affect everyone around you.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

If they remain relaxed, you are much more likely to get help in sorting out the latest challenge.

Pause before you rush to help. Ask yourself what your priorities are compared with those who sprung the surprise. Follow your own agenda rather than being led by others.

Don't catastrophise. If you find you are imagining it all going wrong, you are probably creating a catastrophic fantasy. Recognise this for what it is and dismiss it. Even the worst-case scenario probably isn't as bad as your creative imaginings.

Get to the bottom of it. The story you first hear is unlikely to be the full version. Try to discover all that has happened - ask questions to find out what the real needs are.

Get creative. It's easy to rush into doing what is expected, but fresh solutions might save time and produce a better result.

Remember past challenges. How did you manage with the last surprise?

If you have coped before, you can almost certainly cope again. Build on what you learnt last time.

Keep your ear to the ground. Are there particular people who spring tricky surprises on you? If so, keep close to them - ask them often how things are going.

Be prepared. If a whirlwind is about to start, deal with anything else that might get in the way. Cancel meetings beforehand rather than failing to turn up.

Think of someone you admire or respect. Imagine asking for their advice.

What would they recommend?

Relish the unexpected. Surprises are part of the terrain for any aspiring leader. See them as an exciting aspect of your role that helps you demonstrate why you are uniquely suited.

The Mind Gym, www.themindgym.com.

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