The Secret to Low Maintenance Project Teams: TEAM RULES!

Team Rules PicThe worst part of being a Project Manager is that sometimes you have to act like a high school principal. You remember your high school principal, the one who walked the hallways scanning for problems, looking stern, official, and a little grumpy. The principal made sure you were on-time, respectful of the rules, and staying far away from trouble!

Like a school principal, project managers can spend lots of time managing behavioral issues including: admonishing task delinquents, resolving team member disputes, doling out punishment, and reporting slackers to the project sponsor. Sometimes, doesn’t being a project manager just make you feel a little grumpy?

Well, it doesn’t have to be this way.

The secret to building low maintenance project teams is using TEAM RULES.

Team Rules define how a project team works together by describing specific behaviors. They can be simple like not talking over a team member during a meeting, or complicated such as one that defines team decision making (i.e. Majority rules vs. Consensus).

Read my award winning post, “The 8 Things that Kill a Project Manager,” by clicking here. 

Organizational Psychologist, Roger Schwartz writes that, “When used consistently, they can help teams to make better decisions, decrease the time needed to effectively implement those decisions, improve working relationships, and increase team member satisfaction.”

And the real beauty of Team Rules is that they are created and owned by the team; not dictated from above. They reflect what’s important to the team members about how they work together. So having rules takes some of the burden of monitoring and doling out punishment (being the “heavy”) away from the Project Manager; and places it into the hands of the team.

Creating Team Rules should be one of the first tasks tackled by a new Project Team. I like to distribute a team rules template before the kick-off meeting. This way, team members can come prepared. Your team will need about 2 hours of meeting time to flush-out the details.

Team Rules are most powerful when everyone understands them, agrees on their meaning, and commits to using them. I like each team member to sign the rules. They get posted in common meeting places, both physical and virtual, so they remain visible over the course of the project. Ultimately, you want them to become second nature.

The Team Rules template has three sections:

Team Processes: States the processes the team will use to complete activities.

Examples: How often will the team meet? What meeting roles need to be filled (time keeper, note taker, facilitator) and how will they be assigned? Where and how will the team store data, notes, and other project information. What is the flow of communication outside the project team? What reports will be completed and distributed?

Team Behaviors:  Defines how team members interact with each other.

Examples: How will the team make decisions? How will they problem-solve? How will they handle conflicts? How does the team define respectful behavior? How will people be held accountable?

Team Service Levels: Governs the expectations for activity and task completion.

Examples: What are the standards for meeting attendance, promptness, and participation? How long will it take to return phone messages and e-mails? When should weekly or monthly reports be posted?  When will task completion (or not) information be updated in the project schedule?

The final component of team rules is designing “penalties.” I’m not crazy about this term, but it’s important that a team identifies what happens if a rule is broken. For example, if you are late to a project team meeting, then for the next meeting you will bring donuts for the team. The penalties do not need to severe, rather they can be fun – food is always fun!

Of course the project manager is not completely off the hook. Team Rules cannot be created for all situations. Ultimately, the project Manager is the final arbiter for situations not covered under the rules.

So, to those of you out there that like being the school principal, I’m sorry to say your days of walking the halls may be over. By having an established and agreed upon set of Team Rules, a project team can self-regulate many common team interactions and processes. This can free up a project manager to do more important things: like interacting with the sponsor or maybe a few grumpy stakeholders! This may even enable them to go home early enough to spend some quality time with your family.

What do you think about team rules? Do you use them? What are your experiences?

Read my award winning post, “The 8 Things that Kill a Project Manager,” by clicking here.

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The 1 “Killer” Mistake That Project Managers Make…and Why They Keep Making It!

Business Man on phone in distressBeing a project manager is hard work. You have to deal with team members, sponsors, stakeholders, subject matter experts, and other nosey types that all have opinions. Some of these folks love to sit around and dissect every action and decision that a project manager makes. Often they are just looking for something to criticize. When they find a perceived mistake, they have the nerve to call it “educational,” or worse, a “learning moment.”

Who needs this crap, right?

As I’ve written in the past, mistakes happen (see my post, When Bad Things Happen to Good Leaders”, December 2012). It’s how you deal with mistakes, and how you learn from them that matters.

“There are no failures – just experiences and your  reactions to them.”  ~ Tom Krause

There’s one mistake that I often see Project Managers make from which it’s hard to recover. It sits at the beginning of a project, and often the project manager has no idea it’s even a mistake (until it’s too late).

What is this “killer” mistake?

Mistake: Letting Others Set Expectations

When a new project is activated usually an announcement is made by someone high up in an organization. The announcement highlights the project benefits and usually identifies the Project Manager and Team. Business case figures are often thrown around like, “This project will bring $x million in incremental profits, or increase our market share by y%, or it will be done in z days.” Boom! Expectations have been set; figures have been quoted…it’s hard to go back now. 

It’s easy to see how project managers get caught up in the “expectations cycle.”  The start of a new project is exciting and spirits are high. You’re trained to see the opportunity, to lead the charge, to overcome obstacles, and to drive the initiative to success. Carpe diem, right?

However, until you and team can go through the project details, agree on the deliverables, identify tasks, assign resources, and assess risks – there are no guarantees on what you can actually deliver. In fact, initial expectations and reality are rarely aligned.

So really, what can a Project Manager do? After all, an executive said it would happen; it has to happen, right? Well, here are a few things to try.

  1. Upon assignment, the project manager can volunteer to write the e-mail or speech that announces the project. Ask the sponsor to let you write the announcement for them…hey, it’s less work for them. This way you can control the message that is passed to the organization.

  2. When you are approached to lead a new project, tell your sponsor(s) that you cannot formally commit to deliverables until the details of the project are defined and agreed. This may seem extreme – but, better to address this now and set your own expectations, than to suffer later from someone else’s.

  3. Your first official communication on the new project is critical. Don’t re-enforce any unsubstantiated expectations by stating them again. Instead, focus on the process that you and the team will follow, and what tangible deliverables will come next. Yes, you can talk up the project, but don’t paint yourself into a corner.

  4. Finally, when you see that expectations and reality are not aligned, you have to address it immediately with you sponsor and/or key stakeholders. Show them why you cannot meet expectations, and give them alternatives (For example: You can meet the time deadline with more resources). Time is critical; state your case early and don’t bow to pressure to commit to something that you know can’t be achieved. It’s your reputation at stake!

Letting others set expectations on your project is a critical mistake. Project Managers need to insure project commitments are made by them with the full support of the project team. This should be done only after all project variables are known, and an achievable plan is in place. Finally, make sure that your sponsor and key stakeholders are on board. Don’t start a project fighting up-hill. Make sure the commitments that are made are supported by facts and come from you!

What do you think? Have you seen projects where this has been a problem? Are there other actions you suggest to overcome this issue? I’d like to hear from you!

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6 Things to LOVE about Being a Project Manager

For Valentine’s Day I want to show my profession a little LOVE! Enjoy.

Dale Myers' Blog: Think. Plan. Act. Repeat.

I came to a realization this week that I have been “bad mouthing” my profession. Much of what I’ve been writing lately about project management has focused on the negative stuff, the dark under-belly of the profession known only by battle hardened veterans who live to tell the tales. Actually, it’s been kind of fun to write about the bad stuff like: project politics, cranky sponsors, distracted team members, conniving stakeholders, and poorly written business cases. Some readers have thanked me for the “tough love” approach that they feel I bring. Others have asked if I am looking to scare people away from entering the field. One reader keeps calling me “snarky,” which is a term I’d like to see expunged from the English language. My intent is not to be tough or scary, and certainly never “snarky.” Rather, I have been looking for a voice that readers find interesting…

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Use Your Turn Signals to Drive Your Career

Traffic Light PicYesterday I was driving my car, following behind a blue Honda, when its driver made an abrupt and unannounced left turn onto a perpendicular street. My response was to step on my brakes and move dangerously to the right. I also mumbled a few choice words under my breath directed at this crazy driver.

Had the driver put on their turn signal and given a clear indication of their impending turn, then I could have safely and calmly moved to the right or gradually slowed my speed to give them a safe buffer. Instead I had to react in stress mode, taking a risk that could have been avoided.

There were indications that something was going to happen with the vehicle ahead of me: I noted its speed was decreasing, saw the drivers hands move up the steering wheel, and head swivel quickly to the left. These were early warning signs that something was amiss. But, did I know what would happen next? No. I had to interpret the indicators and make assumptions based on what I observed and sensed – and, from what I’d experienced in the past.

Read my post on the importance of having a career plan by clicking here.

The same can be said about careers. Sometimes you have to give clear and succinct notice of what you want, and where you would like to go. Sometimes you have to use your turn signals to drive your career!

Managers are often following behind you, observing your behaviors, trying to read the signals you’re sending out. They wonder: Are you happy in your current role? What are your career aspirations? Are they challenging you enough? Are you growing professionally? Are you promotable? Are you looking to leave for something else? How can they get more out of you? It’s their job to figure you out and maximize the benefits you bring to the organization.

Unless you and your manager engage in dialogue that answers these questions, your manager is left to observe your indications, your behaviors, and make assumptions about you – some that may be faulty.

I often hear from employees that are unhappy in their current roles, but think they are in no position to communicate their feelings. They worry that voicing their feelings may be seen as whining. Some feel their managers will react negatively to this type of dialogue so they avoid it at their own peril.

I suspect that in most cases their managers know or can sense the unhappiness of an employee. It’s usually shows up in behaviors, body language, and work effort. But, without dialogue a manager cannot be sure. So, they have to decide: should they take action? If it’s not clear…they usually do nothing.

Most companies have performance review processes that should help flush-out how you view your current job and what might be next. Some companies and managers do this well. In my experience, many do it poorly.

I have written in the past that you, the employee, must take control of your own career planning (see my post: Few companies make the effort to manage your career – it’s up to you. So, as the employee what should you do? How should you approach your manager about how you feel and what you want? How do you send clear indicators? Here’s a few ideas:

Engage in dialogue. Whether or not a formal process exists, it up to you to engage in dialogue that makes clear what your needs and aspirations are. If you manager does not do this (many do not), then you have to push the issue, set the agenda, make it happen. It’s your happiness, your career, and it’s too important to wait.

Never come off as threatening. Manager’s hate to be put in a corner or threatened. They go into defensive mode and rarely does something good follow. Focus on your positive contributions to date and move into your need for growth, development, challenge, or just something different to keep you engaged.

Do it often. Regular discussions are important and should be done at least once per quarter. The more you talk the more natural it will seem.

Be prepared. Come with clear thoughts and ideas. Managers like when you do the thinking, have options, and give them choices. Make it a “win-win” for your manager.

Don’t get defensive. This is not about why something different hasn’t happened for you. You want to discuss making something happen for you in the future.

Spell it out in a document. Managers are busy and they sometimes forget what was discussed, agreed, and even promised. Make sure you document a list of agreements, actions, and follow-up items so there’s no debate about these items in the future. 

End on a positive note. It’s always good to end a meeting on a positive note. People often remember the meeting based on the tone at the end. Thank your manager for taking time for this discussion.

For some of you this will never work. There are companies and managers that just don’t care about your happiness, development or future. For these folks you should be planning your escape. But, you may be surprised to find that many managers enjoy this part of their jobs, they see the “win-win” in keeping you happy, and are often relieved to uncover the reasons that one of their employees might be unhappy. At the very least, they will see your ambition to grow and if they are smart, they will help support your efforts.

So, to all you car drivers that fail to use your turn signals, I have my eyes on you. And for the professionals that are actively working to manage their careers, remember to be clear and to communicate what you want – it will make the ride smoother and more enjoyable for everyone.

What do you think? I’d enjoy hearing from you.

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Hiring Mistakes Happen: Don’t Put Your Head in the Sand!

Hiring Mistakes Pic“I’ve never made a hiring mistake,” proudly proclaimed a senior business executive that I cornered at a recent cocktail party. I guess the look on my face highlighted my skepticism and he asked, “What, don’t you believe me?”

It’s not that I didn’t believe him, rather I had the voice of former GE Chairman and CEO Jack Welch in my head saying, “New managers are lucky to get hiring right half the time…and, even executives with decades of experience will tell you that they make the right calls 75% of the time at best.”

Still, I wondered had this executive figured out the secret to perfect hiring? Was there an approach I could glean from him that would give me access to this utopia? Or, was he making the mistake that is often repeated in the management ranks: neither admitting to nor dealing with hiring mistakes?

Look, making hiring decisions is difficult at best. Welch writes, “Hiring great people is brutally hard.” And, leaders often get it wrong. The Harvard Business review cites studies that peg the failure rate of executives coming into new companies at anywhere from 30% to 40% after 18 months.

So, chances are you will make a bad hire (or several) during your career. The key is to recognize the error and to move quickly to correct it. The Matiss Group writes, “Most hiring managers will make at least one hiring mistake sometime in their career. That’s fine, maybe even encouraged. What isn’t okay is not correcting the mistake.”

The costs of hiring mistakes are enormous — in time, wasted and duplicated recruiting fees, missed business objectives, unproductive employees, and distracted colleagues. It’s a significant but mostly invisible drain on corporate productivity.

Another significant cost is the loss of your credibility. When your “mistakes” aren’t doing their jobs, it invariably puts a strain on the whole team and makes work harder for everyone else. Resentment towards the under performers, and towards you for hiring them, builds up.

So given the costs, why don’t those who make a mistake own it and work to make it right? Most managers don’t because they fear looking stupid and worry that admitting they made a hiring mistake is career suicide. However, any company worth its salt will reward managers when they acknowledge they’ve made a wrong hire, and swiftly repair the damage. Indeed, recognizing mistakes, and fixing them boldly, builds a manager’s credibility. Hoping against hope that the mistake will go away does the opposite.

What often happens is that the hiring manager procrastinates for too many months before taking action. They argue that the employee needs time to understand the organization and figure things out. But as JetBlue Airways CEO, Joel Peterson writes, “You’ll usually know something’s wrong in the first 90 days.” The consulting group, Continental Inc., goes further and says, “If they didn’t perform well during the first 90 days, they will never get any better.” So hoping that the performance of a new employee will improve with time is often just throwing good money after bad.

So, you’ve made a hiring mistake, what should you do:

  • First, recognize the mistake and put a plan together to quickly remedy the issue.
  • Work with your HR and legal teams to insure the dismissal process to be used complies with all company and legal requirements.
  • Don’t blame the person who persuaded you that he/she was right for the job. Break the news candidly; take responsibility for what went wrong.
  • Make a fair financial arrangement; you never know where a hiring mistake will end up – maybe even as a potential customer.
  • Review with the others involved in the hiring process what went wrong. If you used an outside recruitment agency, have an open discussion so they can better serve your needs in the future. Try to figure out if there were clues that were simply missed during the recruitment process. Let this be a learning moment for you and your organization.

I’m sure the executive I mentioned in the opening will run into his share of hiring mistakes. I hope that he’s smart enough to handle them and move on. The stakes will be high…this is no time to bury your head in the sand.

How about you? I’d love to hear one of your stories.

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My Sister Nancie

Tree and tire swingI had this song stuck in my head for a long while. I guess it wasn’t actually a song but rather the melody of a song. It goes something like, “da da da, da da da da.” I somehow knew it was linked to my past but I could not place it to a time, a memory or a person.

Anyway, this song followed me around for a while. I didn’t know where it came from or why it started. Sometimes I would hear it in the morning, other times at night. Sometimes I would go days and weeks without hearing it, only to have it re-emerge when I thought it had finally deserted me. Its presence was not something I could predict or plan…it decided when it would be there. I just couldn’t shake it.

Finally, with the help of technology I was able to hum the melody into a telephone app that found the song and provided me with its details. Technology can be pretty cool sometimes. It can take a melody in your head and link it to a memory from your past.

But, before I reveal the mystery of the song in my head, let me tell you a little about my sister Nancie.

The author Mitch Albom wrote that, “Sharing tales of those we’ve lost is how we keep from really losing them.” I guess this is why I written this piece, to share my memories of Nancie, to celebrate them and to keep them alive in my heart and mind for just for a while longer.

I have over fifty years of memories of my sister. She was there shortly after I was born, and I spent the better part of my youth with her. Adulthood brought distance between us – but, when we were together it was as if we had never parted. Pam Brown wrote that “she and her sister shared the scent and smells, the feel of a common childhood.” I was lucky enough to share my childhood with my sister Nancie.  If I could do it all again, I would change nothing.

My very first memory in life was dancing at my grandfather’s second wedding with my sister Nancie. I think it was a polka. We danced in circles, spinning, holding hands, laughing, smiling, and finally falling to the floor with delight.

I remember summers on the Manasquan beach, body surfing the big waves, fishing off the rocks, walking to get coffee for our parents at Carlson’s Corner, following her footsteps in the sand.

There were injuries, sicknesses and trips to the hospital with cuts, scrapes and one particular fish hook obtained at Holmdel Park that went in one side of her middle finger and came out the other side.

I remember us trying to catch chameleons on the beach in Bermuda with homemade traps…we were never successful but the fun was endless.

There were many family dinners at Cobblestones Inn & Mom’s Kitchen where we celebrated birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. Sometimes after a meal, we would go to the Asbury Park Boardwalk to ride the merry-go-round, ferris wheel or bumper cars – all of which are now long gone and forgotten.

There were hours spent in barns feeding and cleaning up after horses. I was always elected to take the loaded wheel barrow out to the manure pile which was located in a dark area out behind the barn, far away from life. I had no great skill or love for this task, in fact I was deathly afraid of the dark, but I would gladly do it anyway. I just liked being part of the team.

Together, we watched countless TV programs and movies. She liked westerns, detective stories and anything that was scary. These preferences followed her to literature where she loved to read anything by authors like Stephen King, Peter Straub and Harlan Coben.

Each fall we rooted for the New York Giants on Sunday afternoons. One year, Nancie and her grandson Scotty dyed their hair Giants’ blue. The Giants won the championship that year. A short while later my sister lost her blue hair after receiving a cycle of chemo and radiation therapy to treat her spreading cancer.

She could cook food with the best of them: brownies, cookies, biscotti, and banana bread were her specialties. After late nights out, I remember her cooking me pork roll and cheese sandwiches on hard rolls…the perfect cure for munchies or a hangover.

There were endless hours spent on house projects: painting, nailing, sawing, tearing down and then building anew; working together to create something better.

In the last few years, she loved to have a glass of white wine while sitting on her terrace talking about her family. She would tell me her concerns, worries and hopes for Frank, Dan, Grace, Scotty and Aayla. She loved to talk about her family – and could do so for hours.

Of course not all my memories of Nancie are great ones. There were boyfriend problems, skipping school, mood swings, rebelling against our parents as many did in that era, getting the car stuck in the mud, disagreements, fights and losses. Nancie was the one that told me my father had died. I was 12 and she was 18. She said “Daddy’s gone, there’s nothing we can do to help him – we just have to stay together.”

No discussion of my sister Nancie should exclude a section on animals. I once counted 23 different species of pets that my sister owned over her life. I’m sure that I’ve forgotten a few along the way. Most of what I know about animals I learned from my sister. Some of the most memorable pets included: Alfie the dog that she trained to do tricks, the attack geese that lived in front of her house in Howell and served as a top level security system, and a pig that one Easter bit me on the leg clear through my white pants until it found and broke my skin. Why did it bite me? I don’t know. But, I think about that pig every time I eat bacon. There were numerous horses from Misty to Shadow and of course Jack the mule. My favorite Nancie animal is still a small dog she brought home one day – a black scottish terrier and german shepherd mix (think big head and short legs) dog that we called Herman the German. Herman was that lovable but highly flawed pet that Nancie seemed to be attracted to. Herman would bark for hours – telling him to shut-up just seemed to encourage him. Herman would make you crazy with anger one minute and fill you with love the next. Yes, Nancie loved her animals and they loved her.

The last time I saw Nancie was this past Christmas. She was sick again, but had lived to see the birth of her granddaughter, Aayla. I remember her sitting on the couch on Christmas Day holding Aalya in one arm and her grandson, Scotty, in the other. She remarked with sadness that she would not live to see the marriages of Scotty or Aayla. She would not see Aalya walking down the aisle in a white dress or get to dance with Scotty all decked out in a tuxedo on his wedding day. I told her that I would be there to see these events and I would send her a full report. This is a promise that I hope I can fulfill.

Fifty years of memories is a lot. But, what is my favorite Nancie memory? Well, if you guessed that it’s related to the song that I mentioned earlier, the one stuck in my head, then you are correct.

The song was recorded in 1968 by George Fame after the release of the movie Bonnie & Clyde which starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. The song was called the “Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde.” It told the story of a gang of young criminals that tried to escape the poverty of the depression by robbing banks, and outrunning and outgunning the law. The song was popular in the summer of 1968.

I can clearly remember that summer. My sister was 13 and I was 7, and I was the pain in the neck little brother that followed around his maturing teenaged sister. We lived in Middletown, New Jersey, in a split level house on a rectangular property with a creek running behind it. In the backyard there was a large tree with an old tire swinging from a rope. That summer I would sit on the tire and my sister would push me under the tree and sing the Bonnie and Clyde song. When she stopped, I would say, “Sing it again Nancie…just one more time.” She always would.

I remember the opening verse, “Bonnie and Clyde were pretty looking people, but I can tell you people, they were the devil’s children.” I remember the sound of her off-key singing voice. I can feel her hands on my back as she pushed me gently under the tall tree. I can remember the glasses she wore that came to a point at her temples. I remember her brown hair with bangs that covered her forehead and framed her pretty face. I can see the outline of the red house where we lived and the concrete patio where our family ate our summer meals. I can smell the fresh grass that was manicured by my father each weekend. I can hear the crickets, grasshoppers and other summer bugs chirping down by the creek. I can smell the grape vines that grew in our backyard, their fruit full of moisture and sugar. I can hear Herman the German barking with delight, his short legs working hard to hold up his massive head – running to follow the path of the swinging tire. I can feel the soft summer breeze hitting my face and the sun warming my young skin.

I can see me holding onto the tire for dear life, my head tilted back and looking up into the sky. I was smiling, laughing, not thinking about the future just enjoying this time with my big sister. I remember it all…and I always will.

So why did I start after so many years to hear the Bonnie & Clyde song? I don’t know. I guess it was because I knew Nancie was sick and that soon she would die. I guess my mind was working overtime digging up memories from my past, our past, begging me to remember the wonderful times that we shared together.

I have a lifetime of memories of my sister. The sad thing about her passing is that we won’t get to create any new memories together. I’ll just have to settle for the old ones, many from long ago but always fresh in my mind.

How long will the song “Bonnie & Clyde” play in my head? I’m not sure. But, my sister, Nancie Piercy, will always be in my heart. “Sing it again, Nancie.” Just one more time…

Nancie Piercy died on March 7, 2013, after a two year battle with lung cancer. She was 57 years old.

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When Bad Things Happen to Good Leaders

SLike many of you, early in my career I found that success came easily. I was led by a good group of people that put me in situations where I could learn, explore, grow and thrive. I worked hard, followed my core values, and mostly made the right decisions. My projects were challenging but always doable. I was surrounded by motivated teams that pulled together for the good of the initiatives. I somehow missed the bad projects. Success just seemed to be a given. Everything in life was golden.

As my career developed the projects became harder, the stakes higher and the risks ramped up exponentially.  The easy successes that I had achieved were replaced by challenges that tested my boundaries. The rewards were substantial but the costs were great. Pressure was the norm – but hey, on the fast track this is part of the deal.

One day you run into a challenge that is bigger than you. A failure is faced that was not anticipated. You start questioning yourself, challenging your beliefs, and digging for answers. You’re the same person – it’s just that now there are doubts that seem to follow you around. There’s no escaping that sometimes, “bad things happen to good leaders”.

So what can you do if you reach this point? Below are a few actions to help you get over the hurdles. The hurt and sadness that you might feel will not easily vanish, but the key is to keep moving forward.

  • Give yourself a break. You’re not the first (or last) smart, creative, ambitious leader to face failure. Lincoln, Edison, Einstein all suffered major setbacks and still managed to change the course of history. Steve Jobs suffered through the “Lisa” debacle, the clunky early version of the “Macintosh”, the “Next Cube”, and the loss of the company he co-founded. Yet, he somehow managed to overcome these failures and reshape the world. So give yourself some slack. Many of the smartest people in history have walked down the same path – you are not alone.
  • Look for root cause. It’s important that we learn from our experiences. Learning leads to growth that will drive change. So take time to search for root cause. Find out why this happened – what you did right, what you can do better, and what you should stop doing. Be open to examining the facts with the goal being to uncover things that you can change. The past is gone, but its lessons live on for your benefit – find them, use them.
  • Take time to recover. The common wisdom is to get right back into the action – to jump “back in the saddle”. I argue you need some time (whatever you can afford) to sort through your emotions. Take a short trip, visit your family, finish a project around the house – let your mind heal before you jump back in.
  • Don’t listen to the negative voice in your head. Most of us engage in some type of self-talk. Often, failure leads to negative thinking that influences our emotions and moods. Negative self-talk further darkens and clouds our thinking creating a downward spiral. But by focusing on positives (past successes, accomplishments, relationships, etc.) and fighting against negative thoughts – we can change the direction of our self-talk.
  • Lean on your support system. Hopefully there are people you can reach out to in tough times. You should look for support from your family, friends, classmates, co-workers, mentors, social groups and even your neighbors. Usually our first response to failure is to retreat inwards – but, it’s hard to clean-out our heads alone. Now is the time to reach out to others.
  • Get professional help. There are times when it’s hard to pull yourself out of the depths in which you’ve fallen. It’s no sin. There are a variety of people there to help you. There are professional mentoring and coaching groups, career gurus, counselors, therapists, and even volunteer organizations that can help. To find them you need to do research, ask around for recommendations, question the potential providers, and then make an informed decision. There’s lot of help out there – please go find it.

Suffering a setback is never fun. But, it’s important to remember that most people over the course of their careers hit a few bumps in the road.  However, as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote we should, “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” The key is that we learn from failure and use the information to make us stronger and better able to deal with the challenges of the future.

 “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” ~ Truman Capote

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