Tech Manager—Becoming Tenacious

Back in September of 2017 I wrote an article called Becoming Resilient. I talked about getting through the tough spots. Landing on your feet. Knocked down but not out. Surviving a crisis and getting stronger because of it. Tech Managers must be resilient. It is the ability to bounce back after difficult experiences. Picking yourself up and moving on after a setback.

The partner to being resilient is being tenacious. Tenacity may even alleviate the need for resiliency.

What Does it Mean to be Tenacious?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary online defines it to be, “…persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired.” They go on to say, “For the more than 400 years that tenacious has been a part of the English language, it has adhered closely to its Latin antecedent: tenax, an adjective meaning "tending to hold fast."

While it is often shown with a synonym of persistence, it is not the same. Persistence means to continue to do something over and over until it works. Persistently hammering a nail will eventually drive it all the way in. Repeating the same action to achieve the results. While this is sometimes needed, if the process is flawed or ineffectual, sticking with it won’t get you very far.

I get a lot of emails that are unsolicited from tech companies offering services. You might get these also. They provide a little blurb about their company and suggest that we meet. Then a week later, they reply to their own email and ask what time is best. Then the next week they actually send me a calendar invite. Then they come back and tell me that they are ready to give up if I don’t respond. Then they email me again and say, “last chance”.  None of this works. It just annoys me. I do not respond to unsolicited emails. I read the first one in case it is something that might be of interest, but ignore the rest. The emails are persistent, but ineffective.

Tenacious people stick with it, but it includes adjusting based on past attempts. Tenacious people have a purpose and a plan. They proceed, attempt, adjust, try again, move in another direction if needed, but always strive for the goal. I get the feeling that the emailing vendors never change their strategy. I just keep getting emails.

A great example of a tenacious person was Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England during WWII. On June 4, 1940, after crushing defeats and a retreat to the beaches of Dunkirk, with a last-ditch evacuation of troops across the English Channel thus saving 338,000 British and 26,000 French soldiers to fight again, he addressed The House of Commons. Here is a portion of what he said:

“The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”

Here are some tips for becoming tenacious when you are challenged by tough times, hard problems and technology breakdowns.

Have the Right Goals – Tenaciously striving for the wrong target would be frustrating. I have written about many ways to define what you are seeking. Get it right. Don’t start your efforts until you are positive that the goal is a worthy one. When you set that goal, stick with it. Don’t change at the first breath of resistance.

Play a Long Game – Don’t let something defeat you. When I hit a setback, I remember that I play the long game. I tell that to people when I start a project or a negotiation. There may be setbacks and defeats along the way, but I play the long game. This means that I do not give up when I do not achieve what I set out for the first time, or on my planned timeline, or get everything I ask for. I just keep going. It may take longer or more effort, but I will get there. Bit by bit it will all fall into place. Little by little I will gain ground. Inch by inch, everything is a cinch (corny quote of the day).

It Ain’t Over, Till It’s Over - I am writing this during the NFL playoff season. In football, it often comes down to the last few minutes or seconds of the game. The game is not over until time runs out. So many last-minute field goals make a winner. You have seen many late game offensive charges decide the outcome. Or maybe a fumble or interception changes everything. Don’t get discouraged. So many times, I have come back to things that were not working the day before and tried another method of fixing it, and it worked. “Try, Try again” (another corny quote, but it is applicable).

Am I Done Yet?  - This comes from my home life, when I have a chore that is not going the way that I hoped it would. It is taking longer, or needs more work, or does not seem to be coming together the way I planned. Along comes someone asking about progress. In my frustration (which is okay to feel), I ask them “Am I done yet?” Meaning I have not given up. I have not put away the tools yet. The chore is still not done, I know it. I am still working on it. I may need to go to Home Depot… again. I will not let it get the best of me. (I also know when to call in a professional because it has gotten the best of me – lol)

Don’t Become Stubborn – sometimes you fail and that is when resilience kicks in. Sometimes, you just have to give up. Don’t become so focused on your specific goal, that nothing less than 100% success will satisfy you. You tend to become stubborn when that happens. It’s okay to have someone else help. It is okay to not get everything you expected. It is okay to modify your goal because it is just taking too long to get finished. It is okay to call it “done” somewhere between “good enough” and “perfect”. As part of your planning and goal setting you should define “done”. If you don’t it may lead to frustration and stubbornness.

Tenacity stays focused on the goal and makes progress while changing methods along the way. Resilience keeps you moving after a setback. Blending the two together makes you an unstoppable force when you meet immovable objects.

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