Situational Judo – Transforms Pitfalls to Become Opportunities

“Each day is filled with pitfalls & opportunities. Our job is to avoid the pitfalls, seize the opportunities, and be home by six o’clock”.

Woody Allen


Too many civilian workers describe their workplace as a combat zone filled with pitfalls that they hope to survive. How do we turn these pitfalls into opportunities?



Several years ago, The Washington Post published an article with the theme of Gender Judo. The premise was successful women leverage stereotypes to enhance their careers. I bristled at the use of the focus on “feminine stereotypes”. I’d like to refocus the article and address Situational Judo. Let’s examine how both men and women can exemplify the “gentle way” of the martial art of judo to recognize a manager or colleague’s weaknesses and leverage this knowledge to showcase individual strengths. In other words, Situational Judo enables us to reframe potential pitfalls so that they can become opportunities.


I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed at the number of people who I initially held at a self-defensive

arm’s length who have become some of my most trusted long-term colleagues and friends. Some crisis would thrust us into a situation in which we were forced to work together to resolve the challenge. As we chiseled away at the problem, we began to recognize each other’s, strengths and appreciate the power we could wield as a cooperative team.


When you are faced with a combative type of situation, employ Situational Judo by determining your opponent’s end goal. Very often, your opponent’s momentum may offer you a means to “latch on” and create a constructive, collaborative solution in which all parties end as winners. How do you “latch on” and redirect a combative opponents moment? Situational Judo method is a simple process to practice and should be repeated often:


1. Create a neutral environment by asking respectful questions.


2. Acknowledge the value the combatant brings to the discussion.


3. Clarify your opponents end goal with a simple query such as:

a. “I understand you want to ______________, could you help me understand how this will resolve the _______________ aspect of our challenge?

b. “I agree we need to _______________; have you thought about the impact on _________________?


4. Evaluate the impact within your organization.

Is it beneficial to the organization? 

A.    What challenges might inhibit successful deployment?

B.    What adaptations might be needed?

 Is it not be beneficial to the organization?

A.    What adaptations might be needed?

B.    Could some part of the original plan be incorporated somewhere else?


5. Help to identify solutions to close these gaps.

By using the “latch on” Situational Judo method, you will become known as a solution creator and a positive influencer who can turn potential pitfalls into opportunities. And, with any luck everyone will be able to leave the office for home by six o’clock.

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