The Ugly Middle

a little bit ofReflecting recently on a class assignment, I remarked how well our group worked together and made the best of each other’s strengths. I also found it interesting that we didn’t experience the “ugly middle”. So what does that really mean?

To explain this – start with imagining a boat trip with a gang of friends:

ugly middle 1

Translate this into the experiences that come up working in groups and on projects. It usually starts out strong and positive then more often than not, the reality of hard work sets in and emotions shift. It starts to look like this:

ugly middle 2

I know that’s a simplistic representation, but the ugly middle is where things can really go off the rails without the right kind of team work and leadership.

Through the Ugly Middle:

Here are my favourite ways to keep going when it starts to get a little crazy:

Anticipate the middle: The better the upfront plan, the more you can rely on it when the going gets tough. Some teams are quick to jump into action during the rush for results only to find that they could have saved valuable time establishing clarity at the beginning. Defining in simple terms what the project is, why you are spending time on it and covering how you might handle the challenges will be useful to bring back when the excitement starts to fade.

Consistency & tenacity are virtues: We all have varying forms of attention deficit disorder and it’s easy to be distracted by the next bright and shiny project. If you are the project lead don’t forget that regular reminders about the end state are important. Think like a marketer and plan for multiple repeated messages to make sure people remember.

When to lead and when to follow: This one is particularly important for the person in charge (whether that is by title or by having gained the trust of the group). It takes a lot of energy to lead, stay positive and focused especially when the challenges inevitably appear. Everyone is human with energy ups and downs. When energy is low, you are prone to fear and negative behavior. Recognizing when your energy is running low and being able to tap team members to step up will keep the overall project on track with accepting and positive behavior.

I have to thank my classmate for inspiring this post and putting me up to the challenge of seeing myself through the tough middle of writing this post!!