I guess this year one of the most overused word presently is luck. Many of us will have added bad or good as adjectives to the word luck to describe what has happened to them or someone they know during these difficult months of 2020.
All of us experience events when something totally unexpected takes place that you could not have predicted and in some cases, it has a significant impact upon you, good or bad. When something positive unexpectedly happens to you it is not the luck that counts but what you do with it.
Some year ago, I read a book where Morten Hansen a Norwegian-American professor explained how you can manage luck. So, what should we be doing to improve our fortunes when ‘lady luck’ smiles on you? Firstly, you must view life as a flow of luck events. Imagine swimming in a river where lucky events, good and bad will flow your way and hit you. These events are neither good nor bad it is just the way things are in the river. When you establish a “luck flow” mindset you can start managing events to your advantage.
We also need to be prepared for some bad luck as bad luck events always happen. I used to do a lot of mountain climbing and even with the best preparation when you get onto the mountain you are controlled by the weather conditions. If you are winter climbing a change in temperature can materially affect the stability of the snow and the ice and your life expectancy.
In business the best leaders prepare for bad events by making sure there are always financial reserves in place and ensuring the business is run lean with no wasted expenditure. Good leaders always build in errors of margin and an example is making sure when travelling to a meeting possible delays are considered.
When a good luck event comes along great leaders have an uncanny ability to spot them and take full advantage. Good luck events, big and small happen all the time and sometimes they present themselves in ambiguous ways making them hard to spot. Spotting good luck is important but the great leaders have the ability to respond by changing established plans accordingly.
In the article I read by Morten Hansen he shared a good luck event that took place in Venice in 1949. Back then a relatively unknown opera singer, Maria Callas, had a superb good luck event. The lead singer in the role of Elvira in Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni had fallen ill and the 26-year-old Callas got the part and a star was born.
For all the good luck stories the business world is littered with examples of good luck events being squandered by bad leaders who fail to respond appropriately. Many years ago, when I worked for BMMI we were asked to supply a US base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. Initially we shipped the base requirements from Bahrain before setting up a BMMI operation in Djibouti although we did not have a long-term contract. This investment resulted in time to much-expanded operations in many countries surrounding Djibouti and in countries in the west of Africa around the Gulf of Guinea.
As Bruce Springsteen said, “when it comes to luck you make your own”.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org