How to Focus Amongst Chaos
Good leaders keep an even keel in both good times and bad, setting a tone for their teams to follow that doesn’t let anyone get too low or too high. It’s to be expected that during the course of a project that there will be times where it can feel like there are just too many things going on to be able to focus on what’s right in front of you, or what’s most critical. Here are some tips to be able to stay focused and lead your team to victory.
Rule number one when it comes to sorting an array of tasks out that all seem to be time-sensitive is to prioritize each one in a sequence in which it needs to be addressed. Many factors can play into a prioritization exercise and it’s not something that should be done lightly. Prioritizing what needs to happen is critical to making the most of what little time you feel you have when things start to get crazy. Identify potential roadblocks or issues with completing your tasks and make sure you and your team know how to mitigate these issues. Make sure to communicate with the team (or better yet, have them be part of the prioritization exercise) to ensure that everyone is on board with the plan (plan the fight or fight the plan) and that your team is buying in. When things get wild and woolly, having a basic list of tasks to work off of is just as comforting as a hand on your shoulder saying “you can do this”.
Many of us, myself included, tend to overlook this when things get a little hairy on a project. Getting too immersed into the situation (not the details, but the situation) can lead sometimes to not getting a clear mind to attack and address the problems at hand. Take time to step away for a few minutes and just breathe. Professional athletes use this technique to stay focused in high-stakes games and it should be no different for you or your teammates. Focus on your breath and it will help to focus the mind and allow you to take a much more objective stance on how to solve the problem.
Lead By Example
Your job as a leader is not to solve the problem (well, most of the time). Your job is to lead the team to solve the problem. Take for example a situation where you have a critical software defect the night before a massively important demo to a client. Panic sets in right? Not if you, as a leader, remain calm and collected while guiding your team to do what they are skilled at and that’s building and fixing software. Nobody forgets how to do their job overnight but when they feel isolated and alone it adds a massive amount of pressure that for most individuals does not pave the way for the critical thinking needed to solve complex problems. Having a leader who can offer a firm but gentle voice to guide and support the team through crises is immeasurable.
Chaos will happen. We all need to accept that fact. Us as project managers try to steer our projects clear of it, and that we should. But we need to embrace that times will get tough and things will get a little crazy for us and our teams. It’s up to us as leaders to remain focused on our goals and our immediate objectives in order to guide our teams out of the challenge and across the finishing line.