You probably see the signs, but choose to ignore them.
Your client or supervisor seems increasingly dissatisfied with your performance, but you feel their unfair requests reflect a partial understanding of the full situation. A new business pitch has you on the run and your current work is becoming neglected. Or, you’ve identified an issue, but there are much more obvious fires that need to be put out.
Please stop avoiding your quiet problems. Just because they are not loudly demanding attention does not mean that they don’t exist. In fact, they have the potential to ambush you when you least expect them.
Think for a moment about your current work performance. Are your stakeholders satisfied? How would you judge the quality of your efforts? How would others judge them? And the hardest question of all—where are you falling short? Take a hard look at these questions and answer them as truthfully as you can.
The bad news? You, and you alone, must be accountable for your own mistakes.
The good news? There is usually an immediate way to start rectifying the situation. Most of us start to feel better the minute we can start “working the problem.” Here’s where I begin when I feel worries emerging:
1. First, infuse a sense of urgency to the situation.
Move it to the top of your daily to-do list and keep it there until you make progress.
2. Interview the people involved, deliberately asking for positive and negative feedback.
Absorb it, and don’t discount input that does not align with your own worldview. You may be happily surprised by the fact that simply acknowledging a problem can help to lessen it.
3. Now, stop talking about it; instead, think about it.
What trends have emerged in your discussions? What do you think of your choices to date? What could you do differently? What would yield a better outcome? Please note, this is not an exercise to place blame on others, it’s an exercise to own your missteps.
4. Consider your peers and critics.
How can you tap your team to change the situation? Which naysayers will you need to convince? What does each of these people need to see in your behavior moving forward? What evidence will sway them?
5. Get to work on a game plan.
Scope the size of the problem and design a correlated plan that takes you step by step to solution. Even big problems can be solved with daily attention and effort.
6. Don’t let the problem recede, as change begins to take root.
Stay on top of it, using your team and critics to keep you accountable for seeing it through. If you convinced people of your genuine desire to change, they will be ready to help you now.
7. Celebrate your success.
And keep your past weaknesses top of mind. You are never done with a good lesson. They have a sneaky way of coming back if you don’t keep them top of mind. Here’s an idea: Why not share your failure (and success) story with someone else? That’s what I just did.
My grandmother always encouraged me to “rehearse my disasters.” Is it time for you to start?
Elizabeth Sosnow is the managing director of BlissPR. She writes for the firm’s blog, where this article originally ran.