One of the hardest things to do is walk away from something that you’ve put a lot of time and effort into. That’s why we see so many TV ads that are only mildly effective, or new product launches that fail to dazzle. Once a company, team, or person has set down a certain path, it is much easier to continue along it than to stop and question whether they’re headed in the right direction. Many never consider the possibility of turning back.
That ‘sunk cost’ mentality is killing your creativity. That attachment to time spent and effort expended is making you mediocre.
It’s Not Quitting or Dodging Commitment
The stigma around abandoning an idea or project is a big enough deterrent that likely 80% of people who landed on this piece have already ran away from it. Joke’s on them though; they’re the quitters. Being willing to walk away takes a lot of guts and a huge commitment to producing the best work possible.
It’s About Being Honest With Yourself
Let’s be clear though; we’re not saying that you give up on every project. Give a project effort, but also step back to be critical of ideas. You might be at the point to do some tough analysis if you’re feeling any of these ways:
You’re not accomplishing the original objective
Despite everyone’s best efforts to plan out a campaign or tactic, sometimes it doesn’t come to life. Once you’ve gotten your hands dirty with a project, it’s ok to admit to yourself and the team that this isn’t achieving what you want it to.
You’ve hit a roadblock and can’t find a way around it
We all get stuck every once in a while. Taking a break or asking for help usually gets things moving again. But if you’ve been putting in your best effort and still can’t find a way to move forward, it could mean that you should head in a different direction.
You’ve lost your passion for the project
All things held equal, falling out of love with a project can be a sign that your work isn’t quite cutting it. Creative professionals are naturally very passionate about producing great work, so if that’s fading, take the time to ask yourself why.
If it’s looking like it’s time to say adieu to a project, use the opportunity to engage the team to dissect what happened and where to go from here.
It’s a Way to Pivot to Something Better
Once the team understands that it’s OK to walk away, it’s time to put it into practice. Productive, analytical discussions are the key and something we’ve been working on. While we’ll be the first to admit that it’s a work-in-progress (and always will be), these are the principles that have helped us:
Recognize that work product is not personal
Detaching yourself from your work product is the first step to being open to the idea of leaving it behind. Keep the passion that gets you fighting for what you believe in, but prepare for others to do the same. When receiving feedback from your team, we all need to work harder to recognize that it improves the outcome. It is not meant to criticize the work you have done.
Encourage others to go deep
Feedback needs to be completely severed from the idea of approval. Too often we’ll ask for ‘feedback’ on a project, but really, we’re expecting a stamp of approval so that we can keep moving things forward. True feedback is a critical investigation into whether the work product is the best it can possibly be. Give your team time to dive in, and prompt them to explain their thinking.
Demand candid conversations
It can be difficult to give feedback to a team member that has been working hard on a project. As the person eliciting the feedback, it’s your job to promote a candid discussion. A great way to start is to point out the areas that you were less confident in. It shows the team that you’re open to the idea that you’re wrong, and they’ll be more willing to tell you when you are.
Leading by example is the surest way you can promote these behaviours. Allow yourself to be open to critical, candid feedback and you’ll see your team members warm up to the idea. It says a lot when a leader can put her work up on the chopping block.
Read more: Where Do You Do Your Best Work?