Leading During Crunch Time: 5 Tips for delivering under pressure

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Crunch TimeIt’s crunch time. Things in the office are buzzing, stress in on the rise and so are the hours everyone is working. Reasons abound for the craziness and range from misunderstanding the project complexity to waiting on others to provide key items critical to your delivery.  The time remaining before deliver is evaporating quickly and everyone is scrambling to get things done.

Sound familiar?  There you are with a limited budget and looking at 2or 3 weeks of long hours and weekends, while still trying to deliver exceptional work to the customer.  You realize the team under stress and working long hours the team is likely to make more mistakes and also work less efficiently than they would normally.  How will you motivate your team to get the job done well and on time?

In my experience, in addition to sound tactical actions: prioritize and work on most critical things first, match peoples skills to tasks, etc. – there are some other actions leaders can take to make the best of a challenging situation:

  • Lead by Example.  If you want high quality, you also need to deliver high quality.  If you want the team to work long hours…well, you get the picture.  Don’t ask people to do what you are not willing to do yourself.  Additionally, a critical part of leading by example is being authentic and showing up as the “real you”.  If you think you can fake it, no need to read further; the points below will not help.  People sense “fake” and teams will not rally well around someone who is a walking double standard and not authentic.
  •  Be in the trenches with them.  Even if you can’t do the actual work, you need to be there offering your help.  If your team discovers you are out perfecting you golf-swing while they are stuck in the office on a Saturday, expect some backlash.
  • Show Appreciation. This is important and often overlooked. In addition to the stress on the team to get the job done they probably have to manage additional pressure from spouses or friends about working nights and weekends. Be sure to tell them you realize they are making a big sacrifice and you appreciate their commitment.  Thank them in an email as well acknowledging outstanding work.
  •  Reward with small tokens of thanks.  Bring in doughnuts; have lunch delivered, hand out small gift cards. Whenever possible, reward examples of leadership and model behavior with $100 gift cards along with a thank you note. Show your team you know who they are as people and they matter to you.  Truly consider what is more cost effective – taking care of the good people you have on the ground or recruiting a replacement?
  •  Celebrate wins.  Acknowledge accomplishments and celebrate small wins.  This could be the completion of an intermittent deliverable or something that delighted the customer.  Build on successes.  Stacking up small wins leads to confident and high performance teams, which lead to larger wins and increased success.

Crunch time doesn’t have to be a losing situation. By remaining positive, acknowledging the value and efforts of your team and leading by example, you will promote better employee morale and an atmosphere of company loyalty, while providing your customer with exceptional work on time and on budget.

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