After 20 years of working in high-tech, there are a few common themes that run
through my career. Certainly, one theme is frustration. You can become frustrated
with yourself, your skills, your clients and your career. Despite the fact that
everyone experiences a certain amount of frustration, most people can have a
difficult time dealing with it, including myself. Frustration can distract us
from those things that truly matter at the very time when we need to be the most
focused. Thankfully, there are a few ways to help work through frustrations of
all sorts and get on with your career and your life.
Get away from it all
The best thing you can do when you are frustrated is to stop. Stop
banging your head against the problem. Stop trying to explain a particular
task to a client
for the 100th time. Stop trying to explain how you could do your work much more
easily with a new computer. Just stop. Forcing yourself forward when you are
frustrated is a sure road to ruin. Sometimes you can’t make something happen
just by working harder.
Instead, get out of the office. Walk over to the coffee shop or cafeteria.
Take a few minutes to get away from it all. My favorite way to
clear my head is to
take a walk around the block. The physical activity works out the tension and
stress captured in your body and the different visual stimulus can help you
to reframe your problem in a new way.
While you can continue thinking about your problem while you walk,
it is often better to push it out of your mind and concentrate
on the scenery, the birds,
the cool cars in the parking lot or the wonderful smell of fresh roasted beans
coming from the corner coffee shop. While you might not be consciously focused
on the problem, your mind will continue to mull it over. Often you will find
that your mind will present options on its own once you have taken off the
pressure a bit. This will allow you to return to the problem refreshed
and with a few
new ideas to try.
Take a deep breath
Sometimes, when you are working directly with clients, you can feel
frustration start to creep into your voice and your attitude. Showing
this frustration to
your clients can be deadly to your career. No one likes feel that someone is “talking
down” to them. Even worse, the frustration often has little to do with
a particular client or situation, but is more a factor of your own fatigue or
simply not feeling well.
This week I faced a bout of frustration with my clients. I had not
gotten enough sleep and the calls were longer than usual. I could
feel the frustration creeping
into my voice and my attitude.
Luckily, I was also aware what was happening
and I was able to re-direct it. The first thing to do is take a short
for a glass of water, tell the client you need to check your voice mail messages
for a second, use any excuse to step away for a moment. Once alone (or quietly,
if you can’t get away), take several deep breaths to calm yourself. Frustration
often has a way of running away with our breathing and heart rate, so getting
them under control is very important.
Next, if the client is having difficulty understanding a particular
task, you need to find another way to frame it. Can you find different
analogies that might
relate more to their experience? Can you find a simpler way to accomplish the
task? Can you automate parts of the task so the user can navigate it more easily?
It is important to understand that when a client doesn’t understand something,
it is as much your problem as it is theirs. They might not be understanding you,
but you are also not making yourself understood to this particular person. You
may have had great success explaining this idea in this exact way with most other
clients but this one is just not getting it. Without taking a few minutes to
think about the problem you might find yourself in the middle of a much larger
personality problem…and no one wants that.
Frustration strikes everyone in a high-tech career, and usually at
the worst possible moment. It is always the most important, the
most troublesome, the most
critical client that brings out the worst frustration. You can regain control,
though, by taking a few minutes away to gather your thoughts, calm your body
and mind and come back to the task refreshed. If you let your frustration spill
over, your high-tech career might be much shorter than you would prefer.
Comments, Questions, Reviews?