In a Crunch? Keep “Getting to the Balcony”

I’m in a crunch. This is the month where many important projects and engagements from the year are culminating and converging, and boy am I feeling the pain! In my body, it feels like walls are closing in and blinders are forming alongside of my head.

While all of this hyper-focus is great and I am extremely productive, I can feel I’m dangerously treading the edge of a tipping point. Where walls closing are creating a tension and rigidity in my body, the blinders along my head are getting narrower, and my line of sight focused on an end only.

Along the way, I’m noticing that I’m more shrill, curt, and impatient with those around me. I’m noticing how much more easily I slip into frustration and drama.

As I feel one part of myself dance a familiar edge of resistance and resentment, there is a more grounded, centered part of me that provides counsel and a reminder to rise above it all and go to the balcony.

“Getting to the balcony” is one of my favorite terms coined by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky. As HBR defines it: “in order to remain effective – a leader must be able to get some distance from the challenging situation in order to gain perspective, possibly breaking the spell of groupthink or temporary hysteria that prevails on the ground.”

When in a crunch, I move to three balconies in order to bring the space needed to get the job done – and get it done well.

  1. Remember the Broader Eco-system Around You.

When we’re in a crunch, it’s easy to lose awareness that there is much more out there than you and your deadline. Pause for a moment and hold a broader perspective beyond your personal and individual circumstance. What is your organization’s mission? What’s happening in the community? In the country? In the world at large? Now, see just how far back you can pull yourself and look beyond a much broader horizon. Where does the world of interconnection begin and end? What cycles of nature continue? What human suffering and joy of all kinds are happening right now? This may sound dramatic, but sometimes it takes realizing that the situation you’re in is not a life or death matter, despite it making you feel that way.

  1. Look at a Longer Time Horizon.

The other balcony that is really helpful is that of time. When we’re in a crunch, time compresses and the finite nature of it hits hard. We can’t take what’s happening in any given month and project that onto our life. This period of time will pass, you will have made that next milestone that seems so urgent right now, and move onto whatever feels urgent next. Gaining some perspective on time can help bring greater acceptance to things as they are now and to ease the resistance when you have to pull out your laptop on a Saturday afternoon.

  1. Connect to Gratitude.

It’s easy in crunch time to fall into our favorite stories of being a victim to our circumstance. I know I love to play the martyr. Negative voice tracks can take over and cloud our view of life. During busy seasons, hold a larger frame of gratitude. What parts of your work are you grateful for at this time? How can you see the support that’s in your life right now? How can we be thankful for our families, our health, and our homes? Gratitude breathes.

As we lift up and out of the current situation and get on the “balconies” of interconnectedness, time, and gratitude, the squeeze and torque within begins to unwind, lighten and bring space. Resistance melts into greater acceptance and we are gently reminded of being human and humility settles in. With more space, a greater presence to what’s in front of us becomes possible, and finally, we mindfully get the job done.

Read More by Topic

  • Leading Others

    Motivating, developing, and inspiring others is a big part of the job. Look here for new strategies and tips.

  • Leading Self

    Wanting to be your best self? Check out our articles on Building confidence, being your most authentic self, time management, and other ways to build your overall resilience

  • Leading the Business

    Looking to build your strategic leadership muscle? Read our latest thinking on setting vision, strategic thinking, and operating at an enterprise level.

  • Paravis on HBR

    Harvard Business Review provides the latest in ideas and advice to leaders. See what Paravis is contributing on HBR.org.

  • Paravis Partners

    Articles authored by a Paravis Partner team member.

  • Presence, Leadership, and Communications

    For over a decade, our sweet spot has included helping leaders build an authentic and connected presence. Click here for more articles on the topic.  Want more?  READ OUR BOOK