You're not servants!
Part of the challenge of crunch times is our belief that we are not in control. And let’s be honest, when we get handed multiple projects that require utilisation of the same resources, and are due within the same 5 day window and at that same time 2 people are sick or on leave, it’s a reasonable assumption to make. What rational leader would ask for such a thing?
When faced with this challenge, along with the feeling of being out of control, we can default to reactive mode. We immediately approach it with a scarcity mindset. ‘OMG how am I going to get that done?’ and we run around focusing on task, deadline, task, deadline, task, deadline. It’s miserable. Certainly not sustainable.
Crunch times need sustainable high performance.
Why do we respond this way?
We have been brought up to believe that service means letting someone else call the shots. In fact, by definition, service is 'the action of helping or doing work for someone’ so yes, someone else is calling the shots. Working hard is important to us and resources are scarce. So when we are handed a new deadline it is appropriate that we respond, but in doing so, we get on a treadmill of increased workload and intensity.
Layer on the fact that in finance, we're often reporting primarily on historic performance and financial information. So we think we need to wait for the activity to be done before we can start. Right? Wrong. If you recall, the other part to the definition above is ‘the action of helping or doing work’.
When we are simply ‘reacting’, working ungodly hours, and doing whatever it takes to meet a ridiculous timeframe, we’re not performing at our best. This doesn’t help anyone.
There is plenty we can do to get ahead of the game, especially as it relates to dates and timetables, and people and relationships.
From servant to service
Being in service is not the same as being a servant. As highly skilled and experienced finance professionals, you have plenty to offer to set crunch times up for success. Success for your organisation, success for your team, success for you.
When we react to deadlines, we default to doing what we've always done, focusing on doing 'all you can' - the bare minimum - in the time you've got. Which is great if tactically deployed (you may have heard of the concept of MVP - minimum viable product), but if you’re simply ‘reacting’ it's nothing more than default behaviour.
Compare this with being given a deadline and being proactive about it. The context is the same - too much work, not enough time - but you get ahead of it by understanding more about the deadline and the deliverable. What is driving the timing? What is the purpose of the deliverable? Get the ‘real story’ and influence the timing and scope of work from there. You’ll be delivering more value (doing more targeted work) and there's a good chance you'll actually be doing less work.
How? Through people and relationships.
Engagement is critical in our work. We can't do it all ourselves - we rely on other people to provide us inputs and then we deliver it to others for review, approval and presentation.
When we engage only when we need something, our relationships are limited to being transactional. When I need, or you need, we talk, but otherwise no dice. There’s no depth in those ‘relationships' which means there's no ability to leverage or create customer experience.
When we are proactive in our relationships at work, we can leverage, we can influence, we have impact. So when we get thrown something that’s seemingly unreasonable, we can have the conversation that's going to have to help us get underneath it and drive a better outcome.
From service to value
Make relationships impactful, not transactional, and shift the focus from reactive to proactive. In fact, get creative and deliver massive value to your clients, stakeholders and team. They’ll appreciate you’ve taken the first step and you’ll have created the crunch time you want.
Love to hear what you think...
About Alena: Alena works with leaders and their teams to connect technical and leadership skills so they can deliver to deadline without killing their people. She is a mentor, trainer, facilitator and coach. Contact her today on firstname.lastname@example.org