Last week was the most challenging (but most rewarding) week of my career. Let me tell you why.
First, I was tasked with a challenging project that I was looped into late in the game. Then, it quickly became high-stakes, involving our entire executive team. From there, it was meant to be under my leadership, but as a mid-level woman - it was challenging to communicate my guidance with some folks on the project. And lastly, my brain was telling me that I had little experience with something like this, even though, that simply wasn’t the case.
I’ve worked with executives on visible projects multiple times, and lucky for me, the executive team I work with is supportive, extremely intelligent, friendly, and receptive to their team’s guidance.
But, this was one of the first executive projects I had done without my leader. And for those of you out there who don’t know that feeling - it can certainly feel like a “flying the nest” moment.
Meanwhile, it felt like I had everything working against me. Pushback on my guidance, lack of communication and unclear external parties involved made me think ... "I'm not sure I'm willing to see this through." But, I packed my bags, flew to Austin and landed to a message from my leader: “I know you’ll do great.”
Here’s how I approached it - and the real things that helped me:
When I had concerns about the direction of the project, I vocalized them in writing, knowing that it was my job to ask the hard questions. I stayed respectful, but communicated my authority - even if the response was not what I was looking for.
I identified what was within my control. My job was to ensure that our executive team felt confident about interviews. So, I made the best briefing documents I could make, gave them all of the “need to know” information, and checked in with each one of them ahead of time to ensure all their questions were answered. Anything outside of that, was simply not my job and not within my control, so it didn’t deserve my energy.
I reminded myself constantly to have a “calm, cool and collected” front. No matter how nervous, irritated or concerned I was about how things were going, nobody needed to know. When the person on the project is concerned, everyone else will be too - and that’s the last thing we need.
I literally wore a power outfit that made me feel confident. I put heels, dress pants and blazer on, even when our workplace is “business casual.” The last thing that I needed when feeling imposter syndrome was to show up underdressed, good gawd.
By the end of it, I knew I had done my job. There were moments of gratitude from some and secretly “told ya so’s” for others. :)
Everybody has projects like these - ones that push them outside of their comfort zone. It feels rocky sometimes but at the end of the day, the value you can bring to a project is sometimes the piece that can make or break it.
Believe in yourself, communicate your value, and stand strong in what you are capable of. Trust me, I know you’ll do great.