I knew it pretty much the second my eyes flew open. Something was off. That "something" turned out to be the start of the day – it was way off. A work day. More specifically, a Monday that was now starting over two hours later than expected. And the realizations didn't get any brighter. Moments after my eyes popped open, my brain shifted from "oh no, what time is it" mode to "what do I do to make my head stop hurting and my brain start working" mode.
Add to that the fact that we were in New York. The previous day/night had unexpectedly turned out to be an over-the-top spontaneous blast and we were now about to pay the price. Before even thinking of turning on the computers, we were smart enough to hustle down to our hotel's breakfast room in order to start guzzling coffee. I knew we had scheduled a packed morning in order to enjoy more sight seeing later in the afternoon. I needed to be fully prepared (and alert) before revving up the computer and facing iCal.
Not only had we missed our first couple of commitments, a welcome/unwelcome e-mail was waiting for us. A potential client, who had had his company's project out for bid for several weeks, was ready to make a decision. That day.
He was asking that all potential consultants be available for last minute requests, questions, etc. in order for he and his colleagues to make a decision by the end of the day. We were already in a mess, and now we were in a hot mess.
We wanted that project – it was right in our pocket – and we weren't about ready to give up.
So what did we do? What we always try to do when things get ugly – commit to three things.
1) Commit to taking a breath.
Unwelcome situations can often serve as gravity pulling you deeper into a frenzy and an unproductive state of panic. We know this all too well from lots of experience living in the mayhem of a crisis. Now, we usually know better and can snap ourselves out of the drama long enough to admit that we need to stay calm and make a plan.
How did that apply in this situation? First, we prioritized. We got our missed morning activities rescheduled and then shot off an e-mail to the client making the big decision. You may be surprised by what we said. We let him know that – due to the short notice – we needed about 90 minutes but then would be available for questions, negotiating, whatever.
You know what we did in those 90 minutes? We went to the gym. We knew, feeling the way we were feeling, we wouldn't be able to bring our "A" game. We needed to be far more articulate than the current headaches and fog would allow. We needed to enter into the final stretch of earning this client's business fully prepared.
2) Commit to staying positive.
We also know, from lots of first hand experience, that it's tough to not buy into a "poor me" mentality. We did it all the time when we worked for corporations. In terms of this potential client, we could have easily said "We will never pull this off today." Even more likely, we could have side-tracked appropriate communication and taken a sort of curt and hurried vibe.
We knew that in order to stay positive, we needed to do #1. Had we not taken a breath – made a plan, gone to the gym – we would not have been set up for success with #2.
Positivity works best in each and every situation because, ultimately, output equals input. Recently, a friend contacted us upset because another friend was talking crap about him on Facebook. While that's a post in and of itself, we gave the same advice. You never regret staying positive.
3) Commit to focusing on YOU.
For a brief period that Monday morning in New York, we were consumed with what our competition was doing. "I bet we're the last ones to read this e-mail." "I bet the other consultants have already been in touch." "We're screwed!"
Enter steps 1 and 2. Had we not taken a moment to collect ourselves and resolved to stay positive, we could have been consumed with thoughts of what everyone else was doing. This does absolutely no good. We were confident that we were a perfect fit for the project, so we stayed laser focused on us and what we could do to secure the project.
As we also told that friend who was being clobbered by negativity on Facebook… Each of us can control only our own thoughts, words and actions. Don't buy into another person's irrational and uncool behavior. Similarly, don't buy into the hysteria of a situation.
Know YOU and bring that.
In the end, despite one of the roughest days in our virtual work history, we got that client. Of course, it doesn't always work out that way. We find that sticking to those three steps – in work and in life – is a significant move in the right direction.