The "No Problem" Problem
by Nan S. Russell
I've lost track of the times I've been told in someone's positive or naïve thinking mode, "No problem," only to have the no problem become one. At the time they said it, there might not have been a problem, but they didn't factor in workplace potholes, speed bumps, detours or traffic stops. Like a high-wire acrobat in a Cirque du Soleil performance, winning at working necessitates the use of safety nets with your work, too.
If you're on a project team or dependent on information, research, systems development, creative materials or work from anyone, their ability to deliver what you need, on time, can pose challenges impacting your results and credibility. So can direction changes, budget cuts, project enhancements, staff or boss changes, timetable adjustments and a host of others.
People who aren't winning at working often believe reasons outside of their control mitigate their less than optimal performance results. But they're wrong. Come annual increase time, your boss won't remember the problems you had. She'll remember if you delivered what was expected or you didn't.
People who are winning at working understand the importance of delivering results. They also understand that in order to consistently do that, they need safety nets to protect them from a fall, enabling them, and their teams, to build performance trust. There are many ways to weave your performance safety nets. Here are four favorites of mine.
One, work in parallel tracks. People typically work in a linear fashion, so changing your approach allows you to work through theirs. I'm currently using four parallel tracks for my new book, Hitting Your Stride (Capital Books, January 2008). These include: building an audience (platform); writing the book; developing marketing approaches; and learning the book business. So, when waiting on issues outside of my control in one area, I move ahead on another track.
Two, help them, help you. Information crucial for you to move forward may be low on someone else's priority list. So help them help you. Write the copy, then get their okay. Develop the spec, straw person or outline and have them sign off. Complete the funding documents and shepherd them through the approval process. Write the proposal and give it to them or their staff for review. Bottom-line? Figure out a way to help them help you.
Three, use pre-established lifelines. Work lifelines are comprised of people you know that you can tap in case of a crisis. Maybe they're friends or family or colleagues, but by nature of your relationship, you know they will do most anything for you, and you for them. My husband is one of my lifelines, known to show up as an extra pair of hands, solve a technical crises at 3:00 a.m. or jump into problem solving as options fail.
Four, have a specific plan B. The operative word is specific. Most people think about a Plan B when plan A unravels. But the time to think about B is when planning A. Working the details of your preferred plan alerts you to elements at risk, so figure out if x does happen, precisely what you'll do. We did that during the 2006 blizzard that closed Denver's airport. Wanting to see our two-week old granddaughter at Christmas, Plan B included packing our car for a 1000 mile trip before we went to the airport, in case the flight was canceled.
"No problem" problems will emerge. So, people who are winning at working expect the unexpected and plan for the unplanned to insure their performance success. They understand, as Napoleon Hill put it, "The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail."
(c) 2007 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Sign up to receive Nan's free eColumn, Winning at Working, at www.winningatworking.com. Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Currently working on her first book, Nan is a writer, columnist, small business owner, and instructor.