Complacency is currently not an option. I’m in the Scottish Highlands on a cycle challenge for the great man Doddie Weir, who’s battling Motor Neurone Disease. I’d already chosen to write about dealing with setbacks this week, but being here brings a new meaning and complexion to the word.

Setbacks are never easy when they’re unexpected. We feel disappointment, frustration, panic and shock. Preparation goes well, you feel in good nick, in control. But then a big curve ball hits that you didn’t anticipate, and hits you for six.

Doddie is a glowing reminder that it’s not the setback, but how we react to it, that’s most important.

So how can we deal with the kind of setback that comes out of the blue?

I try not to over-analyse or over-react. Try to be objective and take the time to assess what’s happened and why it’s happened before you move forward.

I always think back to the four months of preparation I did for my white collar boxing fight. I was super-sharp, super-lean, and then on the day I was knocked out in 30 seconds. How did this happen?… [Time to reflect]. Maybe because four months isn’t that long. Maybe because I lost the best part of 20 kilos for the fight and wasn’t used to it. Probably because I’m not a boxer and he landed a decent punch. You pick yourself up and move on.

Killing complacency

Most of the time, though, setbacks don’t come out of the blue. They’re a time bomb waiting to happen because we’ve got complacent, stopped doing the basics and lost sight of the bigger picture.

In business or in sport complacency cannot set in as easily if everyone has bought into a team culture. Why? Because in a good team, at the first sign of complacency, or bad behaviour, someone should be able to pull you up on it. If it’s against the team’s values, you should get called on it.

In your own office, could every team member pull the others up today for being complacent or behaving badly? If not, why not? For the sake of the business, that level of transparency should be there with everyone, including your boss. In sport it’s easier to achieve than in business. Would you benefit from that kind of culture, with a bit of help?

Speaking of the boss, how important are your leaders during these tough times?

Leading for the storm, not through the storm

Leadership is vital in tough times but have you noticed how the best leaders constantly challenge themselves and their teams to self-evolve and remain open and honest? Because in that kind of environment everyone becomes empowered.

In tough times some people will step up to the plate more than others. That doesn’t make them better, it just means they relish that opportunity. Some people lead and some prefer to be led, and are most effective being well led.

The sign of a really effective, positive leader is not one who belittles or blames. It is someone who empowers and enables, fixes and problem-solves. Sometimes that means having harsh conversations but they don’t need to be negative or detrimental. Most importantly, they need to help people realise it’s not the end of the world.

We get up off the canvas and live to fight another day. Believe me, I know. And if you think you might need a hand with any of this, please get in touch.

Introducing Optimist Performance (LR) from Optimist Performance on Vimeo.