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Knowing When to Step Back

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Knowing When to Step Back

It’s good to be part of a project with a mix of personalities who challenge you to test and improve your people skills.

But how do you know when the differences don’t provide a healthy kind of challenge?

Everyone can manage differences in opinion or the way a task is approached, but when key issues don’t align, the ‘challenge’ can quite easily morph into the destruction of your mortal soul. And you don’t need me to tell you it’s time to step back.

Ideally, we want to identify the whole ‘soul destruction’ thing before it reaches the point of no return, and extract ourselves as soon as possible.

So what key issues could cost me, my soul?

  • Communication.

Some communication differences can be addressed with a few ground rules (in writing, by email, between 9 am to 5 pm, etc.) but when the basis of the communication is completely different, it can’t be remedied as easily.

Some people like to be kept informed or receive responses to communications that confirm they’ve been received. Others communicate in rations; rarely and in point form. If detail is important to you, but not to the rest of your team, that’s a key difference.

If the entire project is built on miscommunication and guesswork, it’s likely you’ll find your role more taxing than expected.

  • Expectations.

With formal agreements, expectations are generally set out in writing to avoid misunderstandings down the track. But informal projects (that involve helping, supporting, volunteering, etc.) often forge ahead on the assumption that things will come together along the way.

This might work well for some, but when expectations aren’t spelt out, you may find that more is expected of you than you first anticipated. And perhaps more frustrating is when the expectations you had of others are left wanting.

Ultimately you may discover that you’ve signed up for something that differs dramatically from the way it was initially described.

  • Core values.

We often think we know people well until we spend more time with them, ask any married couple!

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that the team you agreed to work with, have a range of scruples that differ from your own. And if we’re only talking about folk who like to bite into chocolates and put the hard ones back in the box, there’s probably no harm persisting.

But if your teammates are quick to bend the rules, undermine each other, or display dishonesty, you might want to look around for the nearest exit.

How to avoid the need to step back?

No one enjoys the awkwardness of backing out of a commitment, even when it’s justified; so prevention is definitely better than cure.

These aren’t guarantees, but they’ll reduce the chances of you finding yourself in a regrettable situation:

1. Test communication before you commit.

If people aren’t enthusiastic and clear in their initial communications (when they’re trying to make a good impression), it’s unlikely to improve when the project experiences pressure.

2. Ask lots of questions about the scope of the project and contingency plans.

Don’t be afraid to seek clarification, and specifically ask what is expected of you.

3. Do a bit of research on the team you’re about to join.

Due diligence is a process we use in business that is equally beneficial on a personal scale. Take a look at the social media posts by key members and get a feel for the type of people you are about to commit to. If you see any red flags, address them before your soul is on the line.

Many people tend to stick with informal ventures much longer than they should to honour their commitment, but there are some situations that even the best of intentions can’t remedy.

In those cases, it’s sensible to walk away.

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