Have you ever had the experience of being in charge of a project at work where you are either leading a team or have the full responsibility yourself? Most often we need to complete it in a given period of time. It’s not unusual that, as a first step, we often tend to think it through and create the ideal plan that will allow us to achieve the goal. Of course we devised a plan that we are convinced will effectively do the job and won’t mind the recognition we stand to get for a job well done. And, this is a great approach … until it isn’t!
In an article by Michael Beck entitled Everyone Has A Plan Until … he quotes Mike Tyson, the heavyweight boxer, as saying, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” “It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about boxing or business, the truth is that we all have a plan for success until we get hit with a setback. Many people will want to give up after being hit with a failure or an obstacle. And some people will persevere and continue to take a beating. But there are people who will take a step back, correct their course of action, and find a way to succeed.”
In coaching we frequently work with clients who are in some form of ‘stuck’. And, quite often, it has to do with their having encountered an obstacle(s) in carrying out their approach to the work. Simply stated, they are having trouble circumventing or moving beyond it. In coaching them, the goal is to help the client identify and view alternative ways they can move forward and realize the success they want and are expected to achieve.
Here’s the scenario. You have a devised plan to successfully achieve the project goal. You’re pleased with it and believe it is going to knock the socks off those on its’ completion. Your confidence has you sailing forward when suddenly … crash! You encounter a significant obstacle that threatens not only the completion time-line but also the completion of the project at all. Here are two common ways that you can respond to this:
- You just know your way will work and because of that you keep trying to move forward and continue to run into the same or similar walls. If your attachment to how you should achieve the goal is so strong, potentially it prevents you from being able to ‘see’ any other alternative or even worse, makes you unwilling to even consider an alternative. And this kind of ‘stuck’ is dangerous for it threatens to promote failure of the project and that opens you up to other and more serious repercussions. You’ve really lost focus on the true goal of the job … successful completion.
- Although you believe in your plan, you remain open to seeing when you are not making the progress you need to make and recognize an obstacle for what it is … an obstacle. Regardless of your initial confidence, you recognize that to stay that course threatens to ultimately fail in achievement of the goal and the expected time-line. So, you return to the drawing board intent on altering the planned approach in a way that enables you to move to completion. If this is you, you are more focused on the higher goal … the successful completion as your driver.
I don’t know where you see yourself as it relates to accomplishing your projects however, if you are described in # 1 above, then, of course, the sooner you realize that form of ‘stuck’ you have the opportunity to follow the path of # 2 just because you caught yourself. Regardless, once we are in the zone of knowing we need to alter our plan, don’t eliminate any person as a resource of ideas. Often the best ones come from those who, although familiar with the subject, are not so close to it that they are unable to see solutions that appear somewhat simplistic … and just may be the perfect one.
In pursuing goals that are a part of our jobs, remaining flexible and alert to stumbling blocks we encounter will enable us to weather that ‘punch in the mouth’ and successfully resume the march to the goal. Do I hear John Philip Sousa music?