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How to Respond When Your Work Is Challenged

In moments of conflict about vision, strategy, or tactics, planners who keep a cool head and use a reasoned approach can come off looking good even if their ideas aren’t perfect.

In the small chance that you have never woken up in the middle of the night thinking about the following scenario, imagine it now:

You build a conference or project plan with research and due diligence, only to learn during your presentation that someone in the room—from your organization or from the client—is hostile to your approach. That person has a very different idea about the right course of action and has chosen to confront you with doubts and questions right then and there. What do you do?

According to this article in Harvard Business Review, this is a critical moment when, too often, a lack of confidence brings on “imposter syndrome” and a timid, flustered, or even confrontational response. Instead, what’s needed is an approach that reinforces that your plan is based on sound data and information, while acknowledging that there’s room to amend the plan in light of other informed perspectives.

The HBR article presents a five-step framework that, frankly, requires some practice, because it must be implemented in a matter of seconds—before an important meeting goes off course and it might appear that you lack the vision and/or interpersonal skills necessary to excel at your job. That’s a scenario that would cause anyone to lose some sleep.

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