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Workplace Judo: Managing the Unmanageable

Now and again we like to have a guest blogger who has an issue we find compelling. Meet Julie Zuraw, CEO of the Julie Zuraw Group, and a friend of our CEO, Christine Merser. Her message about success here is inside the sweet spot of the foundation we believe sets up a company of worth for all.

She was a veteran of the design world. She had done this many times before. In fact, this was pretty much her life: Getting the call to go overseas posthaste to handle a client concern, simultaneously putting out a client fire 3000 miles in the opposite direction, then receiving an urgent email on the way to the airport that the installation deadline for Client Number Three has been moved up by an impossible two weeks.

On this day my client was stressed. She was frustrated, and a little angry. As she described it, “There’s just no solution to being constantly punched in the face by deadlines.”

Actually, there is.

It starts with standing still.

If you’re facing a day like my client’s, don’t let your hair catch fire. Stop. Plant yourself. Know that as you’re solving a crisis over here, another will likely come shooting at you from over there, while a third comes up on you from behind. (Crazy days tend to get crazier.) If you run around trying to chase after each crisis and deadline, you will indeed get knocked around and hit in the face. And your emotional “Are you kidding me?” reaction to each curveball will sap your energy, and, importantly for your coworkers, your positivity.

If, on the other hand, you stand still and welcome the unexpected, you’ll find yourself able to field the curveballs as they come flying at you. You’ll be the one in charge.

In a client serving business, “unexpected” is the norm. You can’t fight it, so don’t waste your energy trying to. Embrace it, and you will neutralize its power over you.

Something else my client said on her way out the door that day was, “I just keeping hoping that someday we’ll catch up [with client demands].” That, I assured her, was not going to happen. Or at least I hoped it wouldn’t. Here’s why:

“Success” in a creative enterprise is not a place you get to where everything is shelved away, and perfect, and complete. Quite the opposite. The more successful you become, the more clients you will have, and the more demanding those clients will be. And the world will increasingly expect each new project you complete to be more breathtaking than the last.

Success doesn’t make your job easier, it makes it harder. It makes the stakes higher, and brings you more and bigger (and hopefully more interesting) problems to solve.

In fact, “success” can be defined as “the ability to handle increasingly larger problems and risks,” because getting through those is the only way to get to the really big opportunities. There’s simply no way around it. This is why, as the chaos of your workday swirls around you, it’s important to stay calm. That doesn’t mean you move slowly; it means you move purposefully, keeping your eyes out for the opportunities that lurk in the spaces between those big crushing demands.

These days, my client has learned to embrace the chaos, and use its energy to her advantage. She’s much happier. So are her co-workers. As is this world-class firm’s always evolving, ever-more-interesting group of highly demanding clients.

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