As discussed in “Five Keys to Dealing Effectively with Disruption” posted last month, denial is a hallmark of disruption.  Successfully navigating disruption requires not only avoiding denial yourself – but also ensuring your business partners do not live in that state.

The importance of dealing with the “brutal facts” is not a novel concept in business or elsewhere.  Jim Collins made the point in Good to Great as summarized here:

Productive change begins when you confront the brutal facts. Every good-to-great company embraced what we came to call “The Stockdale Paradox”: you must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

Unfortunately, even if you understand the brutal facts, you may very well have a business partner who does not.   A partner’s denial can destroy value and create unnecessary expense.  Check out my posted publications and presentations for a small sampling of the types of consequences that may result from an optimistic yet reality-denying partner.

As noted in “Why Optimism May Not be Enough to Carry us Through Times of Crisis” by  Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in Fast Company recently: “Even if people crave optimism in tough times, our objective well-being is more important than our subjective well-being, and that depends more on competence than confidence.”

Indeed, employees, customers, vendors, investors, lenders, and other key constituents need more than optimism and confidence from leaders of a partner firm dealing with distress.   Deriving false comfort from such traits from a partner is tantamount to cohabiting their state of denial.  A better approach is to ensure essential business partners develop a credible plan and demonstrate an ability to complete the hard work necessary to implement.

In situations where a key partner needs help in constructing a well-grounded plan, consider the role mediation can play in helping to introduce objective standards in reaching a reality-based solution that achieves mutual interests.  Mediation remains an option even in these days of social distancing as tools exist to help bring parties in remote locations together virtually as this article by Leslie Berkoff notes.  When a partner’s plan cannot be adapted to reality after good faith efforts to address, then alternatives to that business partner must be considered.

In sum, be aware of a partner’s optimistic plan that is not vetted by adequate forward thinking.   This series of tweets from a British town this past week (focused on best practices for social distancing)  helps to make the point.   The tweets highlighted the decision-making behind the use of a half a ton of dynamite to remove a 45-foot, 8 ton whale from the coast of Oregon in 1970.

As the bemused eye-witness reporter observed in this  vintage television news report, “the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds” including on spectators and cars parked a quarter mile away.  Others vested in a better outcome (such as the town and nearby property owners) surely would have enjoyed a less odious outcome by ensuring the removal crew’s optimism was matched with an adequate amount of forward thinking in developing the removal plan.