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The Fast Track Past A Failed Project: 5 Steps

The Fast Track Past A Failed Project: 5 Steps

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    I’ve been working on a pretty big project — a book — for going on eight months. This week, I got word that the project had been scrapped, at least as far as the publisher was concerned. It was a pretty big let down for me: we were only about two months away from the end of the project. Since I’ve gotten word, I’ve been working through everything from shock at the news to anger at some of the other people involved. When you’re emotionally attached to a project — which can happen just because of the sheer amount of time you’ve been working on something — hearing about its cancellation can take it out of you. You get knocked down; it’s important to get back up again and keep moving forward.

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    1. Find Out The Whys

    It’s not unusual to be shocked, or even have a little bit of denial, when something happens to a project you’ve worked hard on. In many cases, you’ll probably get advice to just move on and get past it — but there are plenty of reasons to actually find out a little more about the circumstances. At the bare minimum, you’ll want to be able to avoid similar issues in the future. Such information can make the situation a little more painful in the short run, but I’ve found that if I know what happened, I get a little more closure with the whole situation. Don’t assign blame, though: even when one person was clearly at fault, you’ve got better things to do than focus on that.

    2. Resolve and Repurpose The Project

    Just because you’ve received word that a project has gotten axed doesn’t mean that you simply walk away from it. Assuming that you’re a principal in the project — that you have control over the information and resources of the project — you may be able to reuse at least certain elements of the project towards your future efforts. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to turn around and repackage the project for another client entirely. If you don’t control the project, you’ll still need to shut down the project, box up files and so on. Even if it seems like there’s no point to doing so, it’s worthwhile so that if you can restart the project or reuse a part of it sometime down the road, you can do so easily.

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    3. Profit From Your Time

    If the project really did go very wrong, you may find that your expected payment isn’t forthcoming. That sort of situation makes it particularly important to repurpose your work. However, there are certain ways to profit from your experience on a given project, despite an unfortunate ending. You can update your resume or portfolio in light of what you work you’ve done, take a look at how the project has expanded your network and even wind up with the leftover resources from the project. Taking a look at these opportunities can be a way to keep your mind on the bright side when thinking about what happened. You should expand on what you have, if possible. Maybe you can pick up a letter of reference or get an introduction for another project.

    4. Check Your Reputation

    You may not be able to come out of a failed project smelling like roses. Depending on the environment you work in, a big cancellation may become part of your reputation. With the number of people looking out for themselves in some industries, there may be a few people that decide to cover their out responsibilities by placing the blame on you. Complaining or justifying your actions won’t really help in such a situation. The best option is generally to find opportunities to prove such rumors wrong. Even if you aren’t going to start looking for a big project immediately, taking care of small projects or tasks well can go a long way towards reminding people of your skills and willingness to work hard.

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    5. Gear Up For The Next Project

    No matter how big this project was, it’s unlikely that it’ll be your last project of all time. Instead, you’ve got plenty more to look forward to both in your professional and personal life. You may as well start getting ready for the next one: that can include going out and finding another project. Even if you don’t take on another big project for your work immediately, it may be worth actually seeking out something — it’s just like getting back on the horse after a fall. Taking on a big even at your church or planning a new project around one of your hobbies can help you get past a disappointment, but there’s not a limit on the types of projects that can help you get back into your groove. In fact, deviating from the normal types of projects you find can help you move past a less-than-ideal situation much faster.

    Sometimes you can find yourself in the middle of a disappointing project — one that simply gets canceled. Even projects that look pretty good from your view point can get cut. But that doesn’t mean you have to let the situation turn into your personal bridge to nowhere. No matter how much time, effort or even emotion you have invested in the project, take the steps necessary to move on and move towards better and lasting projects.

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    Last Updated on June 12, 2019

    Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

    Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

    Humor and laughter provide so many rewards. Studies have shown 20 seconds of laughter yield the same benefits as 3 minutes of hard rowing. A Robert Half International study reported 84% of executives believe a worker with a good sense of humor does a better job. Incorporating humor more effectively in the workplace allows you to defuse difficult situations, reduce stress, create attention for new ideas, build rapport, and be a more approachable and memorable leader.

    With those benefits, it behooves you to hone your workplace comedic skills. So in the tradition of David Letterman, here are the top 10 ways to more effectively lead with humor!

    #10. Look for Joy in Life

    An important step is continually looking for joy throughout your life. This happens in a variety of ways:

    • Focus less on yourself and more on helping others. Need help? Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the classic by Dale Carnegie.
    • Laugh more – kids reportedly laugh 400 times per day vs. 15 times for adults. Aim for laughing 40 times daily to be at least 10% of your former self!
    • Regularly read humorous comic strips and look for quips and funny comments in your reading.
    • Even in challenging situations, hunt for something funny or humorous you can take away.

    #9. Learn What Makes You Laugh

    If you’re trying to laugh 40 times daily, it’s important to know what makes you laugh and have ready access to laugh-provokers. Figure out 107 things which make you laugh. Unrealistic? Hardly! Why 107? Because 107 is funnier than 100! Here’s a recipe for listing what makes you laugh by simply identifying:

    • 13 Movies
    • 11 TV Shows
    • 5 Words or Phrases
    • 19 Personal Stories
    • 5 Cartoons
    • 7 Audio or Video Pieces
    • 11 Comedians
    • 7 TV Personalities
    • 7 Funny Photos
    • 7 People You Know
    • 15 of Anything Else
    • TOTAL = 107 Funny Things

    Collect & save these humor starters in a “Smile File” when you quickly need a laugh or comedic inspiration.

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    #8. Use Your Own Comedic Material

    Personal experiences are the most genuine humor sources for effective leadership. Look for humor in situations from your own life:

    • Funny things you have said or others have said to you
    • Pratfalls, be they mental, interpersonal, & physical
    • Embarrassing moments or unexpected happenings
    • Times of change or learning
    • Difficult life events (yes, even these can be humor sources)

    When turning personal situations into comedic material, remember lessons learned from a childhood humor staple: Knock-Knock Jokes. These simple jokes work because the knock-knock structure highlights familiar situations, uses only essential words and phrases, and clearly signals a laughing opportunity. They also demonstrate how humor springs from surprise. The laughs come from not knowing who or what exactly is behind the door based on the initial response to “Who’s there?”

    #7. Adapt Somebody Else’s Material

    Beyond your own experiences, there’s a tradition of “borrowing & adapting” (I didn’t say stealing) funny stuff from others. That’s why old-time comedian Milton Berle was called the “Thief of Bad Gags.”

    Part of borrowing successfully is using easily accessible humor sources in ways many don’t consider. Beyond simply Googling “funny” in front of quotes, one-liners, definitions, pictures, or videos, here are two other common sources you can adapt:

    • Cartoons – You can use cartoons in various ways by showing one in a presentation, telling the cartoon’s story (potentially making yourself a character) without any images, or using its punch line as a starting point for new humor.
    • Comedians – Mainstream comedians’ jokes or catch phrases are another source to modify and adapt to your personality or work situation. Watch lots of comedians and learn how professionals do it so well.

    #6. Understand Your Audience

    Using humor in a leadership position requires understanding boundaries on its proper use. It all starts with really understanding your audience by:

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    • Paying attention to top management’s attitudes toward humor.
    • Knowing the audience’s composition – this directly affects which humor types are appropriate.
    • Loving your audience as much or more than you poke fun at them.
    • Inviting others into humor since you can’t assume they share your same humor sensibilities.

    In case you’re contemplating using ad lib humor, completely knowing your audience is even more vital. Ad-libs have the potential for going horribly wrong because audience sensibilities have been misjudged. It’s very beneficial to actually plan and rehearse ad libs. It may sound odd, but identify common work situations you encounter and think through what usually goes wrong or provides a source for potential humor. Work out some “safe” funny comebacks to use as “planned” ad libs.

    #5. Know the Rules and Boundaries

    There are blatant humor no-no’s in the workplace which are quite acceptable for an onstage comedian. At work, avoid harmful practical jokes or pranks, heavily sarcastic comments, and humor rooted in religious, sexual, ethnic, or racial themes. Think you know your work setting well enough to tread on this dangerous ground? Here’s some advice: DON’T. The way questionable humor will be perceived by a workplace audience is too much of an unknown to take big risks when your career is at stake.

    Use this checkpoint to actually see if your intended workplace humor is SAFE. To pass the SAFE test, all of these statements need to be true regarding your joke, comment, or image:

    • I can Say/Show this to my mother.
    • It wouldn’t Anger me if I were the butt of the joke.
    • This wouldn’t trigger an FCC violation
    • Everyone in the audience will be able to get it.

    With even a hint of one false answer, dramatically modify your idea or better yet, abandon it and start over.

    #4. Get over Yourself

    Effective leaders don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re comfortable laughing at themselves and letting others be funny as well. Leaders should become adept at appropriately using self-deprecating humor, i.e., self-directed humor downplaying your own talents, stature, or accomplishments

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    You don’t want to use self-deprecating humor on simply any topic, however. It’s most effectively & appropriately used in:

    • Situations where you’re comfortable & self-confident
    • Areas where your credibility & competence are clearly established
    • Ways that fit your known personality & sensibilities

    Remember – when trying to borrow someone else’s self-deprecating humor, you need to share that person’s perspective & situation. If not, it’s simply deprecating! I once heard a decidedly non-technical Marketing VP call out “data geeks” in the audience. While that’s what they called themselves, she wasn’t a part of their group, and her comment, intended to build affiliation, fell completely flat.

    #3. Need Humor Ideas? Just Look Around

    The workplace is filled with situations lending themselves to comedy. Humor springs from exaggeration, wordplay, misunderstandings, ambiguity, contradictions, paradoxes, pain, and inconsistencies. If you work in any type of business or organizational setting, there are plenty of these situations to go around!

    As a leader, it’s your role to use the proper opptunities to encourage and employ humor successfully by ensuring that:

    • Your humor makes others feel good about themselves.
    • Hurtful fun isn’t made of those less tenured than you in the organization.
    • You don’t use humor when agitated since it can lead to apparent meanness.

    #2. Surround Yourself with Joy

    If you’re looking for more joy and levity in leadership, surround yourself with joyful people. These are people who are funny, easily spur laughter, and routinely cheer people up through their presence.

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    Cultivate relationships with these types of people. Spend time with them, learn from their successful uses of humor, and emulate elements of their approaches that work for you.

    Beyond basking in the joy these people create, select 3 or 4 of them to be an informal comedy team. As your comedy team, solicit their opinions to help you generate and refine humor ideas. They can also provide perspectives on potentially questionable humor material that makes it through the SAFE test, but still feels like it might not be right for a workplace audience.

    #1. Dive into the Fun

    Ultimately, the most important part of successfully using humor as a leader is actually sharing it in the workplace. Here are a few final tips to keep in mind:

    • Practice your humor in appropriate, low-risk settings to find out what works before trying it out with a bigger audience.
    • Signal a laughing opportunity through your words, actions, and tone. It’s also a good practice to give people “permission” to laugh in the workplace.
    • Finally, be earnest in using humor; don’t focus on laughs so much as lightening and adding fun into work settings.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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