At some point in your career you are going to be assigned to a less than exciting project. It is inevitable, so it’s important you prepare yourself for it as early as possible. As cliché as it may sound, when life gives you lemons (you know where I’m headed with this). These seemingly mundane assignments give you the opportunity to showcase your talents. Ultimately, it’s up to you to manage your own career. Use assignments to perfect your craft and hedge your experiences into other opportunities. The following strategies will help you take your uninteresting assignments and turn them into some of the most exciting moments in your career.
Put yourself out there
Identify the key stakeholders and engage. Engage, engage, engage. I can’t stress this enough. Most of the time your key stakeholders will be obvious. However, there are almost always supporting members of your team, or a team you often collaborate, who will be critical to your mission’s success. Involve everyone early in the planning process. Keep everyone engaged throughout execution. Do your best to make yourself the single point of contact. It will be demanding but you will ultimately turn yourself into a key factor to the project’s success. This will give you the opportunity to wear many hats. This is a good thing. The more skills you can acquire the more valuable and marketable you become.
The devil is in the details
Study all the variables. The more you immerse yourself in your project the more you will see how inefficient you have been operating. Most projects, especially if you join a team late, will have growing pains after kickoff. Take the time to learn how past projects have been planned and executed. Unless you are at the forefront of innovation most of what you will work on has been done before. Turn to the archives and read about past projects. Learn from past mistakes and improve on past inefficiencies. Today most companies have a robust document and control system. Dig into the weeds. Spend some time studying the successes and failures of past projects.
Trust your team
You may or may not like Michael Jordan but there is no doubt that he is a natural leader. He brought the best out of his teammates. Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman may not have ever developed into the players they did had it not been for Michael’s leadership on the court. You will find yourself in that position often in your career. It’s important to trust in your teammates. Assuming they are a key stakeholder in your project, there is a good chance that they aren’t in their positions by chance. Most organizations today are for the most part merit based. Trust your senior constituents but hold them accountable. People tend to find a way then they are given autonomy to complete a task. Remember a supervisor will stand over someone’s shoulder and dictate what they should be doing. A leader will turn the people around them into a championship winning team. Keep your team focused on the goal and avoid getting caught in the day to day minutiae.