What would you do in the following scenarios?
- Presenting radical new ideas to an unreceptive audience
- Collaborating with parties with opposing interests
In all these scenarios, it is expected that stakeholders will push back and might even expose gaps in your plans. How do you increase your chances of buy-in?
In the past, I would wing such interactions and make spur-of-the-moment responses. I have clear memories of such meetings – I got out-maneuvered and was left standing sheepishly. Knee-jerk reactions do not increase our chances of success; rather they expose us to risk. Worse still, the subconscious feedback loop means we rarely learn from the outcomes by re-evaluating our actions.
When was the last time you reflected on the outcomes of your interactions? Are they matching up to your desired goals?
Few teams and people attempt behavioural katas. How many times do teams role-play responses to stressful scenarios? If you do not practice, then how do you expect excellence? Stop waiting for things to happen before you react – take a step back, reflect and anticipate actions and proper responses.This makes you better prepared and also minimizes the impact of surprises.
Katas are well-known practice sequences for achieving mastery. The same concept exists in programming for mastering certain actions and improving performance.
Anticipate Potential Blockers
Entropy is the natural order: complex systems will break down without steadying influences.
It is easy to be reactive so I spend a lot of time identifying my triggers to limit unconscious actions. Deliberateness requires thoughtful thinking but provides more returns on investment. Software engineers agonize over perfect architecture to avoid painful retrofitting costs; sadly they neglect applying the same standards to other non-technical areas.
Play the long game: we underestimate what we can do in the long run and overestimate what we can do in the short run. Big impact require sustained effort in a particular focus area. The higher you go in your career, the more important it becomes to think strategically; start thinking of impact over long windows.
Busyness is dangerous! It provides a false sense of productivity!! Constantly reacting to events means important non-urgent tasks are being dropped; being active does not mean you are productive. Time is limited so we cannot do everything even if we want to.
Pick a few core targets and deliver them excellently: focus, execute, measure, repeat. Make progress day-over-day, week-over-week towards the core goals while not veering off track due to distractions.
I typically schedule time on Mondays to identify the most important tasks for the week and review progress on Fridays (this provides a feedback mechanism for better decision making). This works great for me as it allows me to retain focus on the end goal which might be months away and make tactical fixes e.g. pushing out non-important misaligned work.
Plan ahead for second-order outcomes
The best draughts players in my high school would set up intricate mechanisms and take several of their opponent pieces in one fell swoop.
What are your goals and how are you working towards them? How can you leverage your current work, learning and collaborations to achieve the goals and influence you have in mind?
Think again of the next project you want to take on; what do you want out of it? Are you towing your career interests or just hoping that the system will take care of you and give you things that you want? Sometimes it will work out great however you might also get things assigned to you that don’t nicely fit with your strengths; so what would you do then? Advocate your interests and come up with your goals.
That way you are better prepared and don’t react; rather you are proactive.