Career Masterclass: Seeing woods and trees

It's easy to be clouded by details. Time to take a step back?

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Step back. Hours spent obsessing at your desk won't solve anything. Perspective will. Distance yourself physically and mentally from the problem (go for a lunchtime walk, lose yourself in a book) and only return to it once your head is clear.

Mimic the masters. Great Ormond Street Hospital surgeons identified speed, precision and clear division of tasks as key to successful patient handovers. So they recruited Ferrari's F1 pit stop engineers as teachers. Find people who are succeeding in the areas you aren't and watch their every move.

Change tack. Try the opposite to how you usually approach problems. If you're obsessive about detail, concentrate on the big picture. If you work methodically, try jumping between ideas until you spot patterns. Rash souls, take extra time to contemplate; and, ditherers, set yourself a deadline.

Tip the balance. State your objective ('I want the CEO to notice me') then list factors that will help you achieve it (presenting in monthly meetings) and opposing factors (credit-stealing colleagues). Increase the influence of your supporting factors (better presentations), add more (send the CEO interesting articles) and eliminate opposing factors (confront credit-stealers). Ensure the good far outweighs the bad.

Define the problem. Repeatedly given urgent tasks at 6pm? Your challenge could be simple and self-contained (prioritising quickly) or complex and company-wide (tackling a culture of disrespect). Decide which before you act.

Get reckless. Don't let fear cloud your judgement. Marketing emails missing the mark? Imagine what you would try if you couldn't fail. A controversial new design? Firing your copywriter? Write down all ideas, however crazy, without editing. Now take another look. Are they all so impossible?

Go with your gut. If a rational approach has left you more confused than ever, stop thinking and trust your instincts.

- The Mind Gym: Relationships is published by Little, Brown at £12.99 -

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