Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Action of Anticipation

In Jackie Chan's Karate Kid, there was a particular scene in which Chan is training young Dre. Chan is on one side of a bed sheet serving as a curtain and Dre is on the other side. Chan begins to punch at Dre with a boxing glove on a stick through the curtain and Dre can't see the punches coming. Seeing the unfairness in the training, Dre begins to complain. Chan's response was simple, yet profound. "You must anticipate (the punch)".
Process that for a minute.
  • Do we wait until we see the punch coming at us to act?
  • Do we respond after we have been socked in the nose, or
  • Do we act after we pick ourselves up from being knocked out?

Level 5 leaders are so focused that they see the punch coming before the punch even begins to form.
So how do great leaders build anticipation into their leadership skill set?

History Lessons

Those who fail to learn from history are bound to repeat it.  Leaders must reference prior experiences so that they can predict what will happen in the future.  Knowing behavioral tendancies and how situations typically play out are powerful skills that leaders must acquire to defend themselves and the organization from damaging blows.

Intense Planning

The more intense our planning is, the better prepared we are for anything that comes our way. The Karate Kid was prepared for every punch because his constant conditioning in multiple scenarios built amazing anticipation that yielded his eventual success.  Leaders must continuously plan for what comes next. Based the information gathered through constant  and deep interactions with each staff member and stakeholder, leaders use the undercurrents of the organization to plan for next steps and actions.  This is Marzano's definition of Situational Awareness, one of the most powerful leadership responsibilties.

Team Preparation

Anticipation is an often overlooked skill. Leaders have no choice but to deal with problems, but the best leaders know when problems are coming down the pipe. They can't anticipate 100% of the problems that they will face, but they can be ready for 90% of the typical issues that arise.  Being aware of culture issues and team dynamics, leaders must anticipate problems that will surface and model for team leaders and teams how to respond without causing damaging setbacks.  If the leader can model for the campus how to handle 90% of the problems before they arise, he will teach other leaders how to anticipate and respond to the 10% that he cannot anticipate, which in turn builds collective efficacy into the organization.
The Difference between Good and Great Leaders is Anticipation.
Good leaders deal with problems effectively when they hit the organization, but great leaders respond and guide the organization to avoid the punch before it comes barreling toward the team. The real result of this difference is time. Great leaders bank more time for the himself and the organization to focus on kids and serve others, while good leaders divert time away from kids to effectively deal with problems.  In essence, anticipation is the difference between good and great organizations.


  1. Nice article John,
    I particularly agree on the importance of planning as to be prepared for anything given... Old cliche I have found to ring true as well is; where there is smoke there is usally fire. Just saying...

    1. Bill,
      Thank you for stopping by and leaving some feedback. You're absolutely right. Leaders must be able to sniff out the smoke to solve problems before they turn into a wildfire.

      Thanks again,