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Using Project Management to Survive Personal Disaster

By: Michelle LaBrosse
Posted: September 26, 2008, from the October 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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As a team leader or team member, sometimes you’re not dealing with your own issues, but the challenges of those around you. Your actions during difficult times speak volumes. Leaders are often born when the going gets tough, so following are some rules to use when a team member is tackling a life challenge.

Develop boundaries. Don’t let someone’s personal problem sidetrack every meeting or conference call. It’s important to let people talk about what’s happening, but set clear boundaries about when it’s appropriate.

Focus on the future. Don’t assume that everyone likes to talk about their personal problems at work. Often, people return to work soon after a crisis because they see it as a safe haven. Give people the space to move on. Talk about the future, and let them see what’s ahead instead of focusing on what is behind them.

Have counseling resources available. Many companies now have counseling resources available to their team members when they need them. This signals that you care about your team’s personal health and well-being, and that you want them to be effective. It’s difficult for people to be successful at work if they are distracted by a personal issue.

Know when and how to let go. This is one of the toughest things to do as a manager. It can be hard to let someone go when you know they have gone through a difficult time, but if they are not performing well for a long period of time, you can’t let them drag the team down. Communicate clearly and develop policies that explain your norms and expectations, as well as the implications for when those expectations are not realized.