What To Do When Things Are Tanking

Leaders, the things you are working on are in one of four states: accelerating, booming, declining, or tanking.

What do you do when things are tanking?


Honest response? Moderate stress begins to trigger the sleeping baby in the back seat. Some of you get more and more task-focused and the relational niceties go out the window. Others get overwhelmed by the impossibility of accomplishing everything they have committed to and begin to withdraw and catastrophize the future. Others get stuck in an internal doom loop of inadequacy and despair as the thoughts of how much they have let others down plague their soul. Others get fixated on a detail or solution and become over-controlling.

Listen, if something is tanking, there’s one thing you need to do: MAKE A DECISION!

Don’t get stuck in the pit of despair, blind to the reality that it’s decision time! You need to decide what you are going to do and when you are going to do it. Since the restatement of the obvious is often the most important thing we can do, here are 2 options to try when things are tanking:

1. Shut it down and stick to it!

Be as bold as a lion and shut it down. Whatever it is — the project, the program, the plan — sometimes the right decision is to kill it. If you’re honest, you really think that it has tanked long enough and the real reason you allow it to go on is because you know the potential ramifications — the backlash, the people mess, the sacred cow-ness of the thing. Tip the cow and roar with the reasons why it’s time to shut it down. Don’t second guess, roar with hope, vision, passion, shut it down and stick to it.

2. Lube it up and go for it!

If you’ve seen the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ll remember that the father’s solution for everything is to spray it with Windex. Got a zit? Windex. Cat hair stuck on your trousers? Windex. You are probably more familiar with the WD-40 solution for everything. WD-40 has been documented to solve the problem of a squeaky door and the removal of a python snake that had coiled itself around the undercarriage of a bus in Asia. Norm Larsen is the inventor of the corrosion-preventing WD-40. What you are probably not aware of is what WD-40 stands for, namely Water Displacement (the function of the spray), 40th attempt. You betcha, it took Norm 40 times to get it right. So your thing is tanking? So what? Some of you are on WD-5. Others of you are at WD-39. Some of you just need to be encouraged to keep trying. Bring in different people. Pursue critique. Don’t be independent. Save yourself some pain.

It’s decision time: Shut it down, or spray it with WD-40.