Scaling Difficult Tasks: Leverage Your Resources

by | Sep 13, 2017

HikingThe Isle of Skye in Scotland is laced with hiking trails. Some run through heather-covered rolling moors; some are technical climbs that scale tops of peaks; others drop to the sea along sheer cliffs. It’s not just Scotland with the tricky terrian; all around the world there’s uneven and technical hikes; the Inca Trail in Peru, the Puez-Odle Altopiano and of course, the well-known canyons of Utah and Arizona. If you were setting off on a hike along one of the trails, would you do it blindly and hope that you had the equipment needed or would you consult resources to prepare appropriately? Chances are you would read about the trail on the web, read hiking books, look at topographic maps and talk to others. It’s a no-brainer and yet we frequently don’t leverage the resources at hand when tackling a tough task at work. For example, we may think our abilities high enough to tackle a trail all on our own, when really a tour guide such as Dreamland Safari Tours at the Utah canyons is beneficial, both for our own safety and for getting the best views and experience! It’s important to make use of these readily available resources.

Do your homework. While on Skye, we wanted a challenging hike for our skill level. After a internet search, we found a website that categorized the hikes by difficulty and provided a description and map of the hike. Rubna Hunish was our selection. The description included directions to the trail head, descriptions of each stage, and a topographic map of the trail. This provided an overview of the hike for general planning.

Let’s say that you face a tough task or are in a new job where every task is a bit mysterious. Rather than jumping in, start with basic research on the task, job or process. As with the hike, you benefit from an overview of the overall the project. This allows you to plan appropriately, identify needed resources and skills; and confirm time frames for the work. We could have gotten into a predicament without an overview of the hike. You, too, can find yourself in a predicament without proper background work.

Use other’s experience. As we began our hike, we noticed three hikers a short distance ahead. Their attire, equipment and confident manner indicated experienced hikers. We were not. After a trek through flat, boggy, sheep-dotted land, we came to gate at the top of a steep rock cliff. “Ah,” I thought. “What a lovely over-look. I wonder where the trail went?” About then, we noticed the three hikers headed briskly through the gate. We stopped them and asked about the trail. “It’s here – down the rock to the bottom. But don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it looks. Just go slowly.” And with that they clamored down the rock face. The tops of their heads were out of sight in a flash leaving us stunned and worried.

Who do you know that has tackled this task or one like it before? Who in your office has experience that could provide insight? Perhaps they had your job previously. Talk to them and take in their experience. Yes, that seems obvious but too often, we convince ourselves that our project is unique and the experience of others isn’t relevant. Maybe it’s pride, self-reliance, or the fear of appearing unknowledgeable that holds us back from seeking insight from others. On the hiking trail, it would have been foolish to proceed without information from books, maps and especially the experienced hikers.

Look outside your industry. If there is no one in your office with experiences similar to the challenges you face, you can leverage experience outside the organization. Associations, mastermind groups, professional friendships, or mentors are excellent resources for bouncing around ideas and approaches to a difficult task. Have you looked to others for insight and tips for tackling your task? A few inquiries can save time, resources and stress.

We stepped through the gate and surveyed the precipitous drop, the peninsula dotted with sheep and ocean below. One wrong step and there was no recovery. “It’s not as bad as it looks,” the hikers had told us. Without that bit of information, we would have turned around and missed an amazing experience. One step here; another step there; a pole planted for balance; a hand on the rock and one step more. And sure enough, it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

You might not literally tumble down a cliff, but you can make your task easier and more likely to succeed by talking to others and learning from their experience. It’s the smart move. It’s not as bad as it looks.


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Author Byline: Founder and CEO of Blue Fjord Leaders, Shelley Row P.E. CSP, was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the top 100 leadership speakers. Professional engineer and former senior executive, she was recognized as one of the best minds in advanced traffic management systems.

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