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Three questions to get past stress and move your team forward

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Yuri Arcurs
As September begins, and notice that the quarter is quickly coming to a close, we’re all likely realizing we’re behind the ball. It seems like just yesterday we sat down with our director or assistant secretary and committed to a whole range of performance measures--and now, one month out, your collar is cinching, the walls are closing in and, hey, is it hot in here?

Welcome to overwhelm! That stressful time of year when hair thins, sleep suffers and nerves fray. How will you get it all done? Mike Maddock, a contributor at Forbes, has three questions to move your team forward and escape the quarter intact:

Question Number 1: What’s the outcome I want?

Question Number 2: What stands in my way?

Question Number 3: Who has it figured out already?

What’s The Outcome I Want? This question moves you from a focus on the problem to a focus on the solution, says Maddock. Reassess where a project is going and refocus on what you’re trying to achieve. This question is crucial and should be in the forefront of your mind--the guiding light for all actions taken and resources dedicated to a project.

What stands in My Way? Let out all your fears and complaints. What stands in the way of getting to your desired outcome? Run down a list with your team. Allow everyone to take turns listing the obstacles they see until you’ve run out. Then, get specific and come up with workarounds to each--to your surprise, you’ll find the solution is usually simple.

Who Has It Figured Out Already? Here Maddock advocates, unashamedly, for stealing ideas (or, as he calls it, “parallel engineering”). Who has done a similar project in your office, agency or department? Does somebody have a great project management tool or document format that will act as a jumping off point? What are some best practices here? Steal or borrow the ideas you need to save time, increase effectiveness and get the job done.

When up against the wall with a deadline, what questions do you ask to move yourself forward and accomplish the task at hand?

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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