How To Deal When You’re In Over Your Head At Work.

Feeling like you’re in over your head?

It can be daunting to face a project that seems beyond your skill level or experience. But if handled well, such assignments present a great opportunity to expand your skills and establish a strong reputation at work. Of course, accepting a challenging assignment doesn’t mean ignoring your own limitations. That will get you in trouble every time!

Romans 12:3 admonishes each of us to “not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…” Paul wrote these words to address service in the church, but they certainly hold true at work as well. Too many people fear that recognizing their own limitations is a sign of weakness, when really, it’s a strength I love to see from an employee or coworker.

Rubber band ball

If you’re faced with a tough assignment at work, here’s what to do:

Step one: know your needs. Take some time to think through the assignment and figure out exactly what skills the new job requires and which ones you are competent at and which ones you aren’t.

Step two: assess your resources. Understand the strengths of the team of people around you. Who could you bring in or partner with, or who can teach you what you need to know?  Beyond your coworkers, are there training programs or other resources available that would shore up some of your weaker areas?

When I took on the job of leading Global Corporate Services for CBRE, I realized right away that I would need a good support team. My strengths were in overseeing the big picture, setting goals and objectives, and focusing on the clients and their needs. I needed (and found) support from people who’s strengths were more analytical, creative, or detail-oriented. If I had tried to do it all myself, it would have been a mess. But by seeking out team members with different strengths, and empowering them to lead in those areas, I could do my job well, and also highlight the strengths of my team within the rest of the company.

Step three: implement a plan. You might not have the authority to do this on your own, but it’s okay to go back to your supervisor and say, “I’ve had a chance to look closely at what this project is going to entail, here are some areas I see that will need strengthening, and here is my proposed plan to address them.” That last part is critical. If your supervisor has given you an assignment, it’s because they want you to see it through and believe that you can. If you come to them with a problem, be prepared to propose a solution, otherwise you’ll have them doubting whether you can handle the job after all.

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Have you taken on “stretch” assignments at work? What are your tips for handling them well?