Coping with Delivery Anxiety
One of the most common forms of Delivery Anxiety is Imposter Syndrome, where you feel like somehow you are in a job for which you are not qualified, or in which you don’t really know what you are doing. If most people in consultancy were honest, and indeed in many other industries, many of us have felt this at some point. Most of us will have taken knocks to our confidence and bounced back. But delivery anxiety is where we continually struggle to deal with new or large tasks, especially if they are not very closely aligned with something we have done previously, and, in the consultancy world, we effectively start a new job every few months, each of which is new or slightly different.
Those suffering with anxiety may never fully escape these feelings, but there are ways in which these feelings can be reduced or overcome.
- Previous Experience
No matter what tasks you face, you will most likely have done or seen something similar. Think about what you have done before and how this applies to your current situation. You may have examples of similar outputs from similar projects, or templates from your organisation’s knowledge base, or even the internet. Reminding yourself of overcoming a similar challenge, or of when you achieved something you previously thought you could not do, can boost your confidence. Peggy Klaus, in “Brag!”, advocates having multiple written elevator pitches for different situations. Rereading those can act as a self-reminder that you’ve been in similar situations before, and successfully came through.
- Break It Down
Many jobs, even what most would feel are quite simple and straightforward, can seem like massive obstacles to someone suffering with anxiety. The thought of tackling the whole task can lead to mental paralysis. In those situations, it is key to remember, “How do you eat an Elephant? – One bite at a time”.
Break the challenge down into some component parts. What elements will be part of the whole output? What do you need to do to find the information for each of those components? And some of these components may need to be broken down further, until you see small enough tasks that you begin to think, “Yeah, I can do that”. Once you start filling in the pieces, the big picture will start to emerge, and you will begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
- It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect
While we strive to deliver quality for our clients, we have to understand that perfection is unachievable, and certainly not on the first iteration. Better to produce something, which can then be reviewed and refined, either internally or with colleagues.
Culture plays a large part in reinforcing or breaking the feeling that perfection is required. It is fine to have a focus on quality, but cultural expectations on how you get there is key. Working in situations, where colleagues or management expect quality outputs at first draft, are extremely unhelpful, both for the individuals, and for the company in the long term. Those companies which expect high quality first time, promote a culture of re-invention for safety. Those which promote a fail-fast environment, and converge towards quality outputs, foster innovation, and a safe environment for individuals to produce rough drafts. They are supported to grow through constructive criticism and coaching, and a process which builds knowledge and capability, as well as iterating towards the desired level of quality.
- Take The First Step
Those who suffer from delivery anxiety will often suffer from the lesser referred to third element of the Fight or Flight Response – Freeze. Just as small animals will freeze from fear in the presence of an apex predator, we can freeze from fear of not knowing how to begin. Some writers and artists refer to this as Blank Page Fear.
Again, a good starting point is to find a template or previous example from which to start amending. However, the key is to just start putting words on the page, paint on the canvas. This simple act helps to overcome blank page fear and, even though those first words brush strokes may not be visible in the final product, they provide the context around which to take the next step, and the next, until you start to see the structure of what you are trying to produce emerge. A useful technique to start is to give yourself just 10 mins to focus on a task, see what you can accomplish in that time, and reward yourself at the end.
- You are not alone
When we feel these feelings of anxiety, it is common to think that we are isolated, nobody else feels the same way, if I admit that I don’t know how to start this task people will see through me or think that I am stupid. But, this is not the case. If you are feeling it, many others will be feeling it on a day-to-day basis. And it is in no-ones’ interest to set you up to fail, so everyone around you, including your colleagues and the client, want you to succeed.
So, reach out. Colleagues, peers, and managers will all be receptive to acting as a sounding board and to giving some suggestions. And, if reaching out within the project team sounds scary, reach out to your friends, colleagues, or one of the Mental Health Champions in your organisation, if you’ve got them.
Mental Health Champions at Finyx will always make time to have a conversation. Sometimes you just need to hear yourself tell someone else the issues, to be able to start to understand the way forward. And they might actually have some ideas to help, as they have probably been there themselves. All conversations with our Mental Health Champions are confidential.
Finally, we are not islands in a big sea, standing alone against the wind and the waves. The organisation is greater than the sum of its parts because we are a team. We support each other and we share our knowledge and experience so we can all be more, than we could otherwise be alone. Reach out. As Bob Hoskins said in the old BT Adverts of the 80’s (showing my age now), “It’s Good to Talk!”