When times and projects are rough, we have some advice: grab chocolate and a project manager.
It’s likely not surprising to you that we would recommend a project manager. The chocolate might be a bigger mystery. But eating chocolate (or another favorite treat) is one of the many ways leaders can ground themselves amid stress.
In recognition of this, here are three ways you can mitigate panic and stress when projects go awry. The following is good counsel for all of us. It’s an especially busy time for Anita and me. We hear it’s the same for our clients, trusted vendors and friends. While I write this for you, the advice is really for me.
Take Care and Take a Bite of Chocolate
Taking care of oneself can come it many different forms.
Taking care can mean enjoying a mindful bite of delicious chocolate. (We love the hand-wrapped TC Chocolate.) Feel the packaging slide between your fingers, notice the texture of the paper or foil and how it sounds when you slip the candy out. Then take a moment to smell it. Do you notice any added flavors of coffee, cream or mint? Finally taste it in the same slow way. Relish how it feels in your mouth, how it melts, where on your tongue you perceive taste.
Taking care means getting needed exercise. Fire up the body, go for a walk, or get a good sweat on. Really. Yes, exercise boosts your endorphins and gives you energy for the stresses you face. Leaders learn to move their bodies and tap into the energy this action brings to their day.
Taking care means drinking water. Anita’s husband knows this caretaking measure well. When I got into a car accident some years back, he was first on the scene with water in hand. The cool liquid helped reset and ground me during the moment of stress. Water is life. Our bodies need hydration. Leaders know this and take care of themselves in this positive way.
Taking care means taking a breath. Practice mindful breathing and it will pay dividends in the life of a leader who faces stress.
Minimize Noise, Prioritize, Focus
During periods of stress leaders know they need to minimize noise, prioritize, and focus their efforts. They can’t get caught up in the whirlwind of meetings, responsibilities, projects, tasks, and promises.
Today I’m appreciating a morning without meetings and some precious space between several major client projects. I’m taking time to assess the projects I’ve got on my plate, including after-work family and community commitments. I’m looking at what tasks are mine. I’m determining what communication is needed for those whom I’m working with and managing, and what can or should be delegated.
In addition, Anita and I check in with each other to confirm our to-dos and assess where we can assist each other.
Time Management 101 means building lists, assessing projects and planning tasks. Doing this for yourself and your team helps to focus, reduce noise, and give energy to what’s next.
As project managers our role is to focus on what is next on the critical path for our clients. The lists we create help minimize the noise and create momentum for ourselves, our projects, and our teams.
Engage, Delegate, Activate
“Nothing works unless you do.” This quote from Maya Angelou inspires me. What inspires you to inspire your team?
In times of stress, leaders lead. They activate and empower others on behalf of the work. Effective leaders realize they have an emotional influence on their team. They take responsibility and monitor their emotions and the emotions of others. They motivate and encourage and even inspire.
While leaders provide guidance and focus, they also hold their teams (and themselves) accountable by communicating clear expectations. This is especially important during times of stress.
Leaders know their reach is the greatest when efforts are maximized by their team. Sometimes this means bringing in a good partner, somebody who can effortlessly step in. Leaders aren’t afraid to delegate activities to continue the project momentum.
These observations may provide relief from project panic and stress. Grab a piece of chocolate and take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
Your partners in leadership.