Turn panic into success with these 5 practical actions

Posted by on Jul 6, 2017

project management

What do you do if you’re put in a role that’s way outside your comfort zone?

My friend Steve has an answer.

Assigned to lead a super-demanding IT project, he started to panic over his lack of technical know-how. But he pulled it together and turned his nightmare into a noteworthy success. The team got the job done ahead of schedule and under budget.

If you’re ever similarly overwhelmed, put this five-part Steve strategy to work:

1. Take copious notes. During team meetings, Steve wrote down key points, themes, and terms. He still does, taking time afterward to study the notes, make connections, and figure things out. This speeds up his learning process.

2. Build a network of trusted explainers. As Steve grew familiar with the technical details, he began to learn just how much he still had to learn. He built a bond with several trusted colleagues who would take his questions outside of regular team meetings. He’d scribble their answers in his notebook.

3. Make connections with people on their terms. When Steve needed information from the one person in the company who knew all about a particular operating system, he approached thoughtfully. The man was widely known as a brilliant yet prickly problem-solver who associated with very few people. Steve had heard that the guy was interested in all things automotive. So instead of launching into his computer questions, he started a casual conversation about his recent struggle with a bad transmission. The man’s problem-solving gears began turning, and they talked cars for 30 minutes. After that, Mr. Touchy was more than happy to answer Steve’s questions.

4. Pose key questions to help teams get smarter. Every once in a while, Steve would ask a “dumb” question at a project meeting. These were summary-type questions aimed at getting team members to question their assumptions, see the big picture, and reboot their thinking. For instance: “Let’s step back and take a look at the overall flow here. What does the user enter, how long should it take, and how again does this information get processed?”

5. Earn respect the old-fashioned way. As the weeks unfolded, Steve followed his three rules for earning respect: always put in a full week of work, always give an above-average performance, and make lots of friends. It’s common sense that’s all too uncommon. If you can exert your work ethic and your emotional intelligence on a regular basis, Steve says, “it’s just a matter of time before you’re a necessity.”


By Tom TerezContact