How To Handle Adversity

How do you handle Project Adversity?

Or any setback for that matter?

Most project managers take setbacks hard. We think about our part in them and like cows chewing cud, chew on them for hours. Sometimes days.

Paul G Stoltz, PhD. in the Adversity Quotient, writes about an effective way to handle your adversities. One of most useful pieces of advice he has for his readers comes near the end of his book where he outlines his LEAD system.  LEAD stands for:

  • Listen to your Adversity Responses (How do you respond to the situation)?
  • Explore all origins and your ownership of the results
  • Analyze the evidence
  • Do something

Part of being a good project manager is looking for the improvement next time.  Moving past the self-criticism and second-guessing of past decisions is what D or Do Something, a set of 6 questions to move you forward, helps you do.

The questions are practical and action-focused.  They are:

  1. What additional information do I need?  How am I going to get it?
    Do you know everything about the situation you find yourself in?  Were you surprised by what happened? Why? Do you need more information about the current situation?  This question pushes you into learning what you need to know in order to take action based on reality.
  2. What could I do to gain even a little control over this situation?
    The most debilitating part of any setback is feeling that you are at its mercy. Feeling inadequate to the challenge, or feeling like things are beyond your ability to affect them can eat at your confidence. Identifying a practical step to take back your power can give you a boost.
  3. What do I do to limit the reach of this adversity?
    Sometimes, the situation offers a means to limit the reach of the adversity you face. Other times you have to identify an action to take to limit it. As a newbie in any field, having a mentor can help limit the adversity. Sometimes risk management plans identified in advance can help limit adversity.
  4. What would I do to limit how long the adversity endures in its current state?
    This is where crafting a plan to address the adversity would come in.  A schedule you follow daily, an action you take that mitigates the adversity, or sometimes just a habit you put in place can help you get your metaphorical arms around an adversity.
  5. Which of these actions will I take first?
    Prioritize the actions. If you’re already feeling crappy, piling a list of “should-do” actions on top of your crappy feelings won’t help you.
  6. Exactly when will I take this action?  What day? What time?
    Adding dates and times to your plan adds structure to what was initially an overwhelming flood of emotion and tangled thinking.

Handling setbacks well can be critical to feeling like you’re in the driver’s seat of your life.  Whether they are small (having your battery fail to start your car in cold weather), personal illness or project adversity at work, the tools Dr. Stoltz outlines in his book can help you manage them.

Do you have a method for handling adversity? Leave a comment, send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.


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