I thought to myself half way through writing my last book that for as much time and effort as I had put into it up to that point I sure didn’t feel like I was making as much progress as I deserved.
And, admittedly at that point I did question whether the book was worth completing and did I even make the right choice pursuing it in the first place?
You ever felt like that mid-stream in a project?
Well, if so, welcome to the club. It’s a universal phenomenon I’ve seen in the pursuit of every noteworthy goal. And, that point usually happens just before the half-way point to project completion.
DREADED DAILY GRIND
I affectionately call that difficult period the “Daily Grind” (DG).
It is difficult. Isolation, unrelenting long days of questionable progress, mental and physical battle fatigue aren’t easy to grapple with day in and out. And, without question, the DG is the point where most people quit pursuing their goal.
They stop, not because they can’t achieve it, aren’t qualified, or don’t want it bad enough. It’s because they collapse under the all too common misconception that their lack of progress is because they’re not capable of moving the process forward to completion.
ONE LOSES, EVERYONE LOSES
This is particularly destructive when the person pulling the plug is an integral part of a team working together to achieve the same goal.
Not only does the one pushing the ejection seat button lose, but, everybody, including the families of the others involved in the process, loses.
HOUSE OF MIRRORS
I want to explain through a paraphrased email exchange with a coaching client of mine how I helped him negotiate the treacherous waters of the DG with a partner.
The partner was at his limit trying to complete a critical part of the business while my client was ready to can the relationship because of the difficulties they were experiencing as partners.
Client: You (Jeff) spoke about the daily grind and how that’s when the poop is hitting the fan, you’re at the limit and tolerance for things is low. You’re not eating right. You’re frustrated and irritable. That tells you that you’re still in the game.
JS: Yes, that’s correct. The person exhibiting those symptoms is definitely in the daily grind. And, the good news is they’re still in the game as they’re frustrated. If they weren’t frustrated it would mean they’ve given up and self-opted out of the game and, of course, that means that achieving the goal is impossible. And, that you’re going down with the ship as a consequence of them bailing.
Client: My cofounder is a developer who is developing the app we are launching soon. The above description fits him like a glove. Interestingly, after much reflection, this week I was planning on having a conversation with him about how this wasn’t the relationship I was looking for and that we needed to go our separate ways. I felt like he didn’t have the ability to manage his psychology and as of late, he was always in a bad mood for no reason and was pulling me down as well. However, after listening to you, clearly I have misjudged the situation. Looks like he’s in the daily grind and he’s frustrated. Interestingly, he even said “right now my goal is to just get this done” and he also said he was not really eating till nighttime. Exactly what you mentioned. My question is: what does one do when their teammates are in this scenario?
JS: First, yes, you did initially misinterpret his behavior. Not unexpected, or a big deal, as most people do. But, no harm done as you now understand the difference between the DG and partner incompatibility. Not the same thing, but, do look similar.
CLIENT: You spoke about it being very important to resolve and address any conflict in our personal lives. Few years ago I had read an interview from Cesar Rodriguez, Ace Fighter Pilot, and when he was asked what’s the most important factor for being a fighter pilot, he had said “you need to have your personal life fully resolved.” It’s a quote I have never forgotten.
JS: Great quote. And, for you and your partner now’s your pivotal moment to resolve your conflict. Because, if you don’t, it’s unlikely your business will survive as one against one, when it needs to be two against time, will make the push to completion impossible.
So, here’s what I suggest you do to right the capsizing ship:
1. Discuss with him how you can support him to finish the product. This will help you understand what he needs and where you can support him.
2. Emphasize the importance of his eating healthy so he has the steady mental energy to properly execute the process that needs to go right to complete the task.
3. Discuss what comes after the product is done so he knows that there is an end to the process—because right now the process seems indefinite and he feels a bit hopeless.
4. Build some time off into your partner’s schedule. He needs to recharge from day to day. Now, he’s experiencing mental battle fatigue that has dampened his motivation.
5. Tell him what you need from him. For example, if he’s in a bad mood, but not about you, he needs to tell you that so you don’t stress about that. And, if it is you then you two can work it out.
6. Keep him abreast of what you’re doing so he feels in the loop. Isolation will crush his spirit.
7. Also, reassure him he’s making progress and tell him to be looking for his “over the hump moment”. That moment when he knows with 100% certainty that the product will be finished. It’s coming. And, that’s a big milestone.
So, implement those actions and get back to me. Jeff
CLIENT: Thank you very much, Dr. Jeff. Much much appreciated! Will do exactly as you have said. Have a great evening!
JS: My pleasure, this will test the relationship and you’ll get a better feel for who he really is as a “partner”. This is all expected in start ups as honeymoons never last forever. Nothing unexpected. This is the reality check we’ve been expecting in Step 5 of the Champion’s Blueprint. Which actually means you’ve made significant progress toward goal completion, not that you’re incapable of achieving it.
Client: This is some very sound counsel you gave me in your last email. You were correct – it was just battle fatigue and he was just feeling worn out. We had an amazing meeting. I showed him where he was in the Champion’s Blueprint currently. Described to him how he will be feeling in the grind at this point, and how to manage physical and emotional categories during this time. He got immense value out of it.
I also did the seven points you suggested above – him knowing that I was still committed and in the game was a big factor. I had intentionally been giving him space because I thought I was being a distraction. But turns out our meetings energized him and he wanted more of them to keep the motivation high during this time.
Our conversation today was a huge win for us and really strengthened the relationship!
JS: Congratulations, to both of you! Job well done. You stepped into your leadership respecting your partner. You first identified the step he was in. Next, you identified the pattern he was running, the daily grind. Then, you applied the principles necessary for him to breakdown the resistance he was facing. And, finally, you worked together to find the common ground that took your relationship to a higher level.
Keep me posted on the evolution of your relationship and progress in getting your app to market.
The take home from the email exchange above is that what appears to be so isn’t always so. Which is exponentially true in the pursuit of a goal, particularly, when in the dreaded daily grind.
People need their space in intense times, yes, but, more importantly, they need meaningful communication. Real communication. Communication that considers where they are in a process. And, what does what they’re experiencing mean?
Most often it’s about something else other than what we think because we’re looking at it from our experience as being them in their circumstance, not them, as themselves, experiencing it through their lens.
The seven steps I provided my client to talk with his partner about were about him as a person. Those things that needed to happen for him to complete the app and for the partnership to survive.
People first, partnership and gizmo completion second.
Onward & Upward!