Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Don't Bake the Cake Before It Comes Out of the Oven

3L Publishing's graphic artist Erin Molina used to say that to me. Over the years if there is one thing I've learned in publishing where you're dealing with deadlines is "don't bake the cake before it comes out of the oven." What does that really mean? Worrying, panicking and generally having heart failure over something that hasn't even happened is a true waste of perfectly good energy. The point is that whatever you're worrying or fretting over may never even happen -- and look at all the energy you expended in something that didn't come to fruition. As a project manager, the key tactic I've learned is to stay cool, use your head (know your stuff), problem solve, and then fix whatever is going on. A few useful tips for managers:

Always get out ahead of the problem--this means if you see something brewing or you suspect something could happen, just take measures to ensure it either doesn't happen or make a preemptive strike so it never happens. The advantage of working with clients is understanding human behavior and reactions to certain situations. If you have wonderful foresight, use it, and get out ahead of any potential problem so it never becomes a situation.

Calm, cool and proactive NOT reactive--if something comes up, calmly, cooly and professionally look at the situation. Analyze what can be done and then do it. Sometimes, though, nothing can be done. After all you cannot change a time of day; you cannot make someone answer an email or phone call; and you cannot magically provide an instant answer. And when that is the case, know when you can do those things and that is the answer. Be proactive not reactive means not letting your head spin and lighting fires when it's unnecessary. A proactive manager is the kind of manager I like working with, but a reactive manager or underling is not a blessing. Reactions don't produce positive results. Reactions also often create tensions and confrontations where none were required.

Where's there is no fire there was no flame--and finally we'll call this one "pot stirring and worrying." Sometimes I've worked with people over the years who stir up worry and drama where there is none. When a project hums along let it hum. You don't need to go and double-check a perfectly well oiled engine. Chances are all that checking might spill your coffee on the engine and ruin the hum. In other words, needless and useless checking and rechecking often inadvertently opens the hood so something can spill where it might not have spilled at all.

Finally keep it professional and check your emotions--never ever take a management situation and make it personal between people. You may think you would like to call Bob out and find every expletive you can find to hurl at him, but keep a cool head and manage your emotions. It's easy to do if you apply a simple formula: stick to the facts. I remember one time a dear friend of mine decided he couldn't stand his demeaning boss anymore. Instead of sticking to the facts, my friend chose to get emotional and tell the guy off. Well, friends that was poor decision. Bottom line is the guy was "the boss," and the boss hires and fires. Where do you suppose my friend ended up?

No comments:

Post a Comment