What Support Do You Need?

Welcome back to Jumpstarting Open Projects! This is week 2 of 4 (Find week 1 here). Follow along as OPA leads a group of workshop participants through the full production cycle of a project that will help them share their knowledge with the world. You can do an open project, too!

Week 2: Reach Out to Trusted Advisors

It can be hard to ask for help. You might feel like you shouldn’t need it. And making a request can be nerve-wracking, awkward, or otherwise fraught.

To give yourself some grace around this, think back to people who’ve been in your corner before, helping you navigate challenges and celebrate successes.

Workshop participants considered times they’d gotten support in the past—the fantastic experiences and the less-than-helpful ones.

Some agreement emerged about what doesn’t work:

  • inflexible, out-of-touch supervisors
  • lack of feedback (or too much), which creates confusion and unclear expectations
  • bad or incompatible project management styles—undefined goals, a vague roadmap, lack of structure, last-minute demands for big changes
  • long gaps between one check-in and another
  • criticism, pressure, threats, blame, and abuse

…and what does work:

  • accountability buddies
  • constructive, well-timed, and non-judgmental feedback
  • assistance with chunking big to-dos into manageable pieces
  • consistent check-ins and a respect for process before product
  • guidance, trust, care, and belief that people have intrinsic worth that’s not tied to doing and producing

Next, everyone took a few minutes to list folks who could be their supporters and sounding boards.

The list included a partner, friends, a former collaborator, coaches, a therapist. Someone who’s been “in the arena.”

“Asking for the kind of feedback that you want/need makes it much easier to get.”

This was an insight that came out of the group discussion. Figuring out whether you need encouragement, big-picture comments, proofreading, opinions and advice, validation and understanding, or some combo of different elements can up the chances you’ll come away from your feedback session ready to tackle whatever’s next.

Some things participants said they needed: Time. Vulnerability. Support. A realistic to-do list. Patience. Accountability. Brené Brown. People who care. Rest.

And these demons were getting in the way: Lack of self-belief. Burnout. Exhaustion. Shame. Fear. Procrastination. “Graveyards of half-finished projects” and “ghosts of past projects.”

Getting Unblocked

Workshop attendees were already turning to one another for support and resources, and from these conversations came some recommendations. One participant suggested an exercise called “5 whys” to find the root of an issue and work through roadblocks.

To cope with shame, another participant referenced an exercise from Brené Brown’s book, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t). List the top 5 ways you do not want people to see you. Then ask, “If people reduce me to this list, what important and wonderful things will they miss about me?”

Finding Support

What do you need? Who are the people you’ll contact this week to help push your project forward? (It doesn’t have to be those you already know!)

And you may or may not need to hear this right now, but it’s okay if your project changes.

Up Next: How Do We Take Action?

Photo credit: Neil Thomas @finleydesign via Unsplash