By Christine Carron
I received the email one week after I took over a software development project that was way behind schedule and massively over budget. The email was from the CEO of another consulting firm. Two of his consultants—very senior, very talented developers—were staffed on the project. He requested a meeting with me but gave me no context. He almost seemed purposely vague. He was, however, specific that he wanted an in-person meeting, not a video conference.
No matter how busy I was, I was going to set-up that meeting. He was not my direct client but absolutely was an indirect one. Everything seemed fine interpersonally between me and his two developers, so I wasn’t totally worried. But sometimes folks are more comfortable giving feedback through others. If there were concerns, I wanted to know. Team dynamics are critical in project turnarounds.
A few days later, I arrived at the coffee shop to meet the CEO. All seemed well as we went through the normal nice-to-meet-you banter. Then he paused, sat back in his chair, looked at me somewhat speculatively, and said, “Look, I just wanted to meet you, because I’ve never seen anything like this. Before you arrived, my two guys were so fed up they told me they wanted off the project or they would quit. But on the Friday after you arrived, they both said that everything was fine now, and that they wanted to stay on the project. In five days. How did you do that?”
First, let me say that was one of the finest professional compliments I’ve ever received. Second, I was a bit flummoxed myself in the moment. In that first week, I had met with the team, including those two developers, had identified some of the bigger issues, and had implemented changes that would help over time, but in my mind things were still a bit of a mess.
Why did they want to stay if they had been that fed up?
When I reflected upon it further though, I realized what I had done was communicate the promise of clarity, focus, and consistency—followed up, of course, by actions that demonstrated I could deliver on that promise. That was enough to make those two developers confident that everything was going to be fine. Confident enough to stay on a project that they had been threatening to quit over.
Musicians jam. So can writers. But it requires confidence. Confidence that comes from clarity, focus, and consistency.
Clarity is about knowing what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Even the clarity that we do not yet have clarity can be a relief. At the most fundamental level, clarity is about knowing this is where I am right now—even if where we are is in a big vat of confusion.
Clarity is putting the start position into Google Maps. It builds our confidence because when we know where we are, we are already part of the way to where we want to go. Be that on a development project or a writerly adventure.
Why? Because we are better able to choose the correct path of action. For example, a writer in a big vat of confusion needs a different set of strategies and tactics than a writer who is clear on next steps but is struggling with some kind of block.
Focus is about choosing what we are going to work on in a given period of time. My experience is that many people try to do too much at once. The result? They get nothing done, or at least nothing done well. There is a level of badassery to focus. One that requires boundaries, flexibility, and smart prioritization.
Boundaries because you have to be firm with yourself and others when you want to focus.
Flexibility is required for effective focus because as you proceed on your priority work, you will get additional data and insight. Sometimes that data and insight will affirm your current focus. Other times, they will reveal that a change is needed. Flexible focus allows you to integrate that learning as you go—rather than dying on a focus hill that is no longer serving you.
Smart prioritization in focus is about organizing your work in a way that minimizes fire drills instead of in a way that creates fires. For example, many junior (and some senior!) project managers insist upon a due date for every task. The problem? Fake due dates can create unnecessary stress and focus around tasks that are actually less important from a strategic or tactical perspective. Smart prioritization balances due dates and importance.
When we have boundaries, flexibility, and smart prioritization fortifying our focus, confidence is sure to follow.
Perhaps the biggest confidence booster of all is consistency. Consistency is about creating writerly output on a regular basis. When we trust, when we know, we can do that, that’s when we really start feeling our writerly swagger—no matter where we are on the writerly journey.
The most common advice I hear to help writers get their work done regularly is, “Butt in chair.” The good news is we can add more options—and greater process elegance than just where we place our derrière—to our writerly toolkit, not only for building consistency, but also for clarity and focus, too.
It’s absolutely true that the writing adventure is hard. But I’m convinced that it’s often harder than it needs to be. That belief is the reason why I created Goodjelly. It’s my mission to help writers claim more confidence on the writerly adventure by using clarity, focus, and consistency, a.k.a., joyful process awesomeness.
That’s why I’m so psyched to be welcoming writers just like you into The Jam Experience™.
In The Jam Experience, I’ll teach the same principles I’ve used with teams around the world to create more clarity, focus, and consistency in their work. Again and again, the individuals on those teams experienced greater happiness and more confident in themselves and their work. That’s why I call it joyful process awesomeness.
Of course, for The Jam Experience, I tailored all this process know-how so that it addresses the specific challenges of the writing adventure. In particular, to the challenges of getting our writerly work done. In The Jam Experience, you’ll learn the custom process I created called The Wromp Method™.
Romp = proceed with ease and playfulness to achieve something
Wromp = writerly romp
Because when writers wromp, they jam!
Here’s just some of what we will cover in the program, using structure, systems-thinking, and, of course, a whole lot of delight and fun, as I hope by now you expect from me:
This program has been decades in the making from a know-how perspective, but I went into high-speed creation mode when it occurred to me to model the program around my work on turnaround projects.
On those projects, I integrate the principles as we go. The teams I work with cannot stop what they are doing to learn a new method for weeks on end and then get back to their work.
Nor should your writing have to wait. So I designed The Jam Experience to be a learning and doing program. You will learn. You will get your writerly work done. You will do so in the company of a cohort of awesome writers.
And I will be there to lead you and cheer you on the whole way.
I want you to write. I want your writerly dreams to come true. For that to happen, you have to stay on the adventure and get your writerly work done. (Like those developers decided to stay on the project.) The Jam Experience is designed to help you do just that.
So if you want this to be the summer you completely up-level your clarity, focus, consistency, and confidence on the writerly adventure, register for The Jam Experience today. Let’s Jam!
The Goodjelly Prompts of the Week