I mentioned recently that I’ve taken on a new project at work.
I won’t go into the details of the content of the project, but I will share that it was a little unexpected, it’s very complicated, and it’s stretching me in all kinds of ways that are helping me learn more about myself as a leader.
Since this project is complex, urgent, and quick moving, it’s been a bit challenging to pause and reflect on what I’m learning along the way. I decided to spend a little time drafting this post to allow myself the space to think about what’s been the most helpful to me as I’ve taken on this new project.
I’ll share some of those reflections here in case they might be useful for you, too:
Get to know the team. It’s rare to have a complex project that doesn’t include other people, so I’ve spent some time getting to know the other people involved in helping move this work forward. There are project managers, change managers, communications experts, and several other people I haven’t worked closely with before, but with whom I’m now spending a lot of time.
Know what strengths I need to use. I’m lucky that the people I’m working with on this project are highly skilled, so there is a lot being brought to the table. Early on, we had a conversation about the strengths that each of us bring, and that others can rely upon, throughout the timeline of the project. That has turned out to be a very helpful conversation for us.
Train, learn, and ask questions. Since this project is a little outside of my wheelhouse, I needed to learn a lot of relevant information very quickly so that I could apply it, talk about it, and answer questions from other people on a topic that I previously did not know much about. Blocking several hours for this training certainly helped, but I also asked a lot of questions along the way to make sure I was really understanding what I was learning.
Ask for help and support. Since there is still a lot I have to learn in this new area, I’m asking for help when I feel like I could use an outside opinion, check my own understanding, or just have emotional support for more difficult tasks. Complex and fast moving projects often have their own unique challenges and it’s been important for me to know who I can turn to when I need support.
Narrow my attention. This project is taking a lot of brain power, energy, and skill to ensure that I’m contributing in the best ways that I can. I’ve really had to narrow my attention, cut out distractions, and make sure that I’m able to focus on the tasks that really require thoughtful and intentional engagement so that I feel confident about each step.
Take things one step at a time. With a lot of complexity, it could be easy for me to feel overwhelmed. What’s helped a lot is to think about the specific phase of the project that we’re in, the particular steps that need to happen next, and then to execute those steps completely and competently so that we can build off that work in the next phase.
Get adequate rest. When a project takes this much energy to do well, it’s so important for me to get good sleep, at least a little down time, and to take quick rest breaks between meetings and tasks for a few deep breaths. I’ll admit, I’m even dreaming about the project at this point, so this is an area that’s been a bit more challenging for me.
Ask for feedback. Since this project involves several public tests of my knowledge and facilitation skills, I’m frequently asking for feedback, processing that feedback, and making immediate adjustments to do the work better. Setting aside my ego has been important since my performance on this project has larger implications than most of the other projects I’ve worked on in the past and I want to do the best I can.
Give myself grace. With a high-stakes, complicated project there will inevitably be mistakes. I’m not going to be able to perform perfectly all — or even most — of the time. Knowing that I’m doing the best I can, and showing up ready to improve and grow along the way, helps me to keep moving past mistakes or missteps that happen.
What kinds of things help you to get started when you are taking on new projects?