You work on it. Every meeting, every day. You push hard for the company, but you stand up for your team. You ensure they are working hard and you fight tooth and nail not to get put in a hopeless or unfair situation.
Managing it is part political, part customer service. Looking ahead to predict the needs and laying groundwork to optimize how it comes to your team. Working with the client to meet their needs while keeping it feasible.
The goal: drive the business without burning out your team. And every now and then you fail.
It happens quick, but you better not be surprised. If you didn't see it coming you need to work on your skills. It usually happens inch by inch, day by day.
You see, smell and feel the stress building. You make hundreds of small adjustments to alleviate the pressure. You try to find the leaver in your arsenal that will stop the pressure from building.
But then it happens. The pressure takes its toll. Hopefully it manifests itself in a small way - a inappropriate blow up, and shouting match, something minor and internal. At least you can do damage control. But it happened, and its your fault, you failed.
Other times it’s a bigger issue - a staff member resigns or a major client deliverable is blown. Its your fault, you failed.
Either situation is devastating as it adds fuel to the flame - situations that extend the pressure further into your team increasing the pressure and will lead to more.
As much as the failure is your fault, and you failed, and it is your job to prevent it, the truth is also that failure IS the default state. Achievements are work to accomplish, an outright war against failing. Delivering for your clients is hard work. Failure is the default state.
So you failed, you let the default state occur - how do you cope? You can't ride this one out, you need to act fast.
You have to push hard to get it back on track, and that’s going to cost you.
You saw this coming and were managing the message upwards in your organization, right?
Roll up you sleeves and burn some hours, you need to get deep in the details fast. Keep an eye on your other duties but its time to prioritize and let the less important things go unresolved for a week or three. Let everything else slide to the point people are about to escalate, you have to push the line to make some room to get the failure under control.
Dig in the details, specifically the things that are numerous or specifically hard. Then play the politician to try to remove the complexity or quantity, work on the client side to negotiate some breathing room.
Beg, borrow, or higher more resources. Adding more resources to a late project makes it later - don't forget it. But adding resources of very specific types to a high pressure situation will alleviate issues, it may not fix timelines but it will calm people down. It’s a clear message that you care about the team and the deliverable and doing everything in your power to deliver. If the new resources can deliver on specific tasks without full understanding of the system it will help - and since you dug into the details you know exactly where to apply them.
So you failed, but how you deal with it is a clear measure of your worth as a manager. How did you do?