“Make It Work.” – Tim Gunn
When all else fails, you have two options: Give up…or make it work.
Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline is certainly motivating, but the campaign glosses over the trials and challenges associated with success. “Just do it!” is easier said than done.
In business, you may start with a can-do, go get ‘em attitude, but how long does that last? As boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face.”
Tim Gunn, the iconic mentor for budding fashion designers on the TV show Project Runway offers sage advice we can all use. Tim’s catch phase, “Make it work,” accepts the fact that life – and fashion – don’t always go as planned.
As Tim makes his way around the workroom where designers are frantically trying to come out on top of the latest challenge, he provide tough feedback on designer’s work. He’s quick to see who’s struggling, offering advice that often involves stepping back and getting a fresh perspective.
It’s not uncommon for a designer to end an encounter with Tim Gunn feeling like they need to start over. Scrapping a design hours before it’s scheduled to hit the runway is a bold move. When a career is on the line, designers know they need to be bold or they’ll be gone.
Just when they think there’s no hope, Tim Gunn encourages them to “make it work.”
In business, leaders often feel the same pressure.
What happens when the contract manufacturer of your new product suddenly shuts down? What do you do when your top sales rep goes to the competition? How about when a key executive has a family emergency on the eve of a critical investor presentation?
We all know “stuff happens” although you might choose different words. When it does, we need to be able to adapt on the fly, making quick decisions and changing direction (or “pivoting” in start-up speak) when circumstances catch us off guard.
You might think it’s conventional wisdom to have a Plan B, but knowing and doing are two different things. There’s not always a viable alternative waiting in the wings for its chance to shine. Many executives reserve back up plans for big disasters, like a wildfire that takes out corporate headquarters or an emergency succession plan.
In reality, the hard knocks come on a daily basis. Big setbacks make news, but minor inconveniences, when handled poorly, can add up to a bigger problem in the end. All these things require an agile response from empowered employees.
Having a “make it work” moment is not an excuse for ethical shortcuts. Nor it is a reason to place blame or point fingers. It’s an opportunity to recover with grace and aplomb.
Whether you’ve just stepped off the stage while giving a presentation (which I hate to admit once happened to me) or you found a typo that changed the message of an important memo, success in business depends on thinking quickly and embracing the circumstances in front of you.
To “make it work,” don’t worry about what went wrong, you’ll deal with that later to avoid a recurrence. Instead, take a deep breath and take stock of the situation. What resources are available? How can you use them to your advantage? A creative approach might be just what’s needed to emerge stronger and brighter than you originally planned.
So go ahead…“Make it work.”