Blindsided by a Bear

My husband and I travel to Yellowstone every year. He first introduced me to this magical wonderland in 2006. We have been every year since, sometimes vising twice a year.

One fall, we traveled down a heavily wooded road anxiously anticipating our next wildlife encounter. We came upon two sets of couples photographing a small bear eating berries in the trees. We pulled over, jumped out of the Jeep and just as we set up our cameras, he came crashing towards us out of the trees and scooted down the road way.

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Everyone but me followed this guy down the road. I wasn't interested because I figured all one would see is his behind. And who wants butt shots! lol As I watched the group get further and further away, I began to enjoy the stillness of my surroundings. Autumn was creeping in bringing yellows and reds to the trees. Golden shards of light filtered through the branches. A hauntingly musical sound played over head as the wind whipped through the lodge pine needles. I was truly in the moment, savoring every bit.

Then I heard a disconcerting sound. Brittle twigs snapped and branches rustled. Apparently, I wasn't alone and, worse yet, I was in bear and moose country. My eyes darted in and out of the woods surrounding me, scoping for a shape. I feared being trampled by a bull moose or worse attacked by a grizzly. It didn't take long for my eyes to guide my gaze upwards. It did take a second, though, for my mind to register. It was a black bear! In a tree! Twenty feet above me!

I backed away slowly and positioned myself behind my Jeep. I called to my husband, but he was too far away to hear me. I had a little reassurance as I felt for can of bear spray attached to my hip. Feeling some what safe, I set up my camera gear and began taking photos. He was bigger than the first bear, which explains why the smaller bear was running away.

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A few minutes pass and I am still alone with this bear. The photos do not share my experience with him very well because he is hidden behind the leaves and branches. Finally, my husband and the others arrive and we all have a good laugh as they take some shots of the black bear for prosperity.

Even though I planned ahead and had my safeguards in place (bear spray, vehicle, exit plan), I was still completely blindsided by this bear. About once every two or three years, I will encounter a situation in which a client blindsides me. The blindside occurs when I present a finished product and they tell me it is nothing like what they wanted. It always catches me off guard because I've done my due diligence in gaining insight on how my client's product should look and function.

The first thing I do is take a deep breath and step back as I did with the bear. I then evaluate my notes and try to determine where the disconnect occurred. Just like when I saw the bear, I double checked to make sure I had bear spray. Fortunately, the notes and emails show the client's request clearly. Having a contract stipulating what happens in these issues helps me during these situations. Just like having a Jeep for safety eased my apprehension with the bear.

If you are getting blindsided multiple times a year, it's time to evaluate your processes. Create two checklists: 1) a list of actions your client must follow (provide info, sign contract, make deposit, etc.); and 2) your list of actions you must do to achieve your client's request (define clearly what client wants, send proofs, follow up calls, etc.). Follow through on these each and every time, checking off each item as you go. Once you get the hang of it, you will see a decrease in the blindsides.

But when they do happen, don't let blindsides knock you down. Stay calm, take a step back, go over your notes, and 99% of the time you will find you did absolutely everything right. Nature just has a funny way of messing with your plans!

Alicia White is the CEO of Back of the Room Productions, home of the Speakers Briefcase™, Authors Briefcase™, and The Speaklet™ and North America's first Back of the Room Branding and Marketing Materials Provider. Copyright 2012.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree...about the clients not the bear. I don't know if I would have been as calm as you were....I definitely would have peed my pants so I need to add 'change of clothes' to my armamentarium ;)
    I was blindsided by my patients multiples times until I developed systems that included consistency in what we say and present. Great advice Alicia!