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.
There’s a common saying that fences make good neighbors.
The underlying assumption is that people get along better when there is separation, that relationships need defined space.
Our best work happens when people break down those fences and come together. We believe that collaboration leads to the best ideas and the best path forward. We know from experience that we can do more together than alone.
All it takes are five simple ingredients to add creamy flavor to fried potatoes and punch to baked salmon. Those same five ingredients can serve as a base for a scrummy potato salad and the unsung heroes of a BLT sandwich.
When you combine garlic, mustard, egg, oil and lemon, you get an unforgettable garlicky mayonnaise, also known as aioli. Those individual ingredients are certainly tasty, but they become magical when combined. By slowly adding oil while whipping the other ingredients, the liquids emulsify and create a custard-like spread. Yum!
Like mayo, the ingredients for a planning process are simple. Yet they form something new when combined. When blended, purpose, people, time, communication, and action become key ingredients to projects, events and collaborations we deem successful.
This year, Reach Partners celebrates 20 years.
That’s countless hours of coordinating events, gathering people in conversation, helping work get done, communicating key messages, training volunteers, facilitating meetings, pushing and encouraging, staying within budget, outlining the scope, staying up late, waking up early, making mistakes, asking forgiveness, and making right the mistakes we made.
As we celebrate this milestone, we recognize that we are who we are largely because of the values that we uphold and practice. We are intentional about how we do our work and who we do it with. This has led us to the best partners a business could ask for and we are immensely grateful for that.
So, in honor of our anniversary, we want to reflect on a few moments from the past two decades that speak to our values. Of course, there are so many more moments than we have space for, but here is a sampling:
At some point, nearly every organization needs to hire an outside vendor or consultant.
Maybe you need help with accounting or a website redesign. Maybe you need someone to help you organize an upcoming event; or maybe you need someone to lead your team training.
Whatever you need, be sure to seek a partner – and not just a vendor or a consultant.
What’s the difference?
It starts with intent.
I’ve always enjoyed reading, and I’ve become a better reader thanks to my book club. Armed with their encouragement and suggestions, I read a larger array of genres. I’ve also learned that I like to listen to audible books checked out through the library, a habit that recently led me to listen to Matthew McConaughey’s book, Greenlights.
It was okay, maybe even good. I listened to the book at normal speed the entire time, which is telling. That’s usually how I start an audiobook, but not how I end it. I either speed it up, wanting it to end soon or slow the tempo, wanting to bask in a text’s poetic beauty.
Still, let’s face it, it wasn’t a bad deal to have Matthew talk to me during drive time. Memoirs are not my favorite genre but I have found that I don’t get bored if it doesn’t follow a chronological order of the person’s life but tells stories centered around themes.
But the part of the book that sticks with me is when McConaughey shared this observation: “If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges – how to get relative with the inevitable – you can enjoy a state of success I call ‘catching greenlights.’”
My days are filled with communication distractions. Like many of you, I’m bombarded by messages via email, text, and phone. Even spoken conversations are often focused on a quick exchange of information before moving on to the next scheduled thing.
These experiences have motivated me to dig deeper for a better way of engaging with others: In a world full of noise, how do we invite meaningful conversations, the conversations that matter? And the follow-up question: Why are these types of conversations important? For human connection? For getting things done? For leading through social complexity?
I think the answers to the latter is yes, yes, and yes.
I often struggle to know whether to say “yes” or “no” to a new experience. Even armed with details and expectations, I never truly know whether something will turn into an opportunity or an obligation.
In addition, I value clarity and purpose. When expectations are vague, I hesitate.
And yet, sometimes ignoring the small voice in the back of my head that says “no” leads to valuable and meaningful connections. Sometimes my curiosity wins and I’m learning to pay attention.
I hate puzzles.
Maybe it’s because I’ve always been frustrated by them.
I remember once, as a child, trying to finish the puzzle of a hot air balloon. It was beautiful: a brilliant blue sky and the balloon was distinguished with bright colors of the rainbow. But it took forever to complete. The puzzle sat on the dining room table and I heard my mom tell more than one guest that they needed to place a piece before they left.
I might have passed on my dislike of puzzles to my kids. One Christmas, I had a photo of the two of them turned into a puzzle. The pieces sat in a box for nearly two years before I made myself put it together. The puzzle wasn’t complicated; it was 25 pieces. But it wasn’t easy and certainly not fun. I threw it away.
During the pandemic, I watched friends on Facebook safely exchange puzzles as their families used time together to puzzle (is puzzle even a verb?!). Yuck. Not me. Not my family.
And yet, I solve puzzles at work all the time. Every time I piece together details of an event or a project, it’s a puzzle. Only recently did I figure out the difference.
You’ve probably heard the Chinese proverb: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Another way to think about it: all big and complex things start with a simple step forward.
In many situations, however, that first step might not be so simple.
You likely have your own personal list of to-dos that have been gnawing at you for what seems like forever. For whatever reason, you keep procrastinating and pushing them to the back burner.
That tendency is multiplied when you consider projects that require a team or collaborative approach. Maybe you have a list of projects that you want finished, but you never seem to have the time, energy, or organization to move them forward.
At Reach Partners we’ve seen projects fail to launch or stall because a successful start was an obstacle. Starting is harder than it looks.