When times get tough, great leaders know where to turn for help. No one is expected to have all the answers or be a one person show. But you should know your options and where to get answers.
Having spent the last two decades providing what I like to call “project-based consulting” to organizations of all sizes, some patterns form. This form of consulting puts us in the eye of the storm sometimes. I have seen some things that work really well in chaotic times as well as what doesn’t. Hopefully sharing these insights will provide value and some warning signs. Here are some ideas:
Network regularly with your peers, past colleagues, service providers, and others outside your normal circle. This will help you to develop a list of “go to” people who can help you with challenges and connect you to answers in a pinch. All too often, we run into people networking for the first time because of a career transition. I am always thrilled to assist but would much rather start the conversations before the lost job. Even if networking could not have prevented the career change, it could have made the ride more enjoyable.
Be aware of you own stress level. Stress is normal and can be expected, but if it starts to impact your ability to operate and be effective it is time to shift your approach. It is admirable to go the extra mile to hit a deadline or reach a goal, but sometimes additional effort reaches a diminishing return and starts to work against you. I have seen more than one leader be removed after months and months of 15-hour days. The extra effort was clearly not working. Better to ask for help than to go it alone, whether that is an extra set of hands or some expertise that is outside your comfort zone.
It’s ok to go ask for money. Yes, even when it is not in the budget. The largest projects I have seen have all happened in spite of the budget. When things go wrong, they must be addressed regardless of the budget. It is admirable to treat the company resources like your own. That’s what we all expect from our team. But staying on budget and missing deadlines or giving up quality or ignoring problems, is not reasonable. Go ask for the money and sell the idea of why you need it. This is what allows you to get on top of the problem and win.
The thing I like most about my role is helping people work through tough situations. Our solutions are not always right for every situation. But value is created by defining the problem, brain storming, crafting solutions, and sharing what has worked other places. Sometimes this does not lead to direct business for us, but perhaps a connection to a better solution down the street. This requires ongoing networking on my part too.
Hope to connect with some of you soon to keep this process in motion.