He was given two weeks. He asked for another. It seemed as if he was saying the same thing each time but was repeatedly being asked to do so differently, and now he was at a loss as to how. In previous sessions they wanted to see less data, but now they wanted to see more - the kind that was difficult to verify, normalize, and consolidate. This effort being expended, he felt, was wasteful. He was already shouting the message to them. If only they would listen, he thought.
He didn't procrastinate - he just didn't actually start work for close to 18 days. It's not that he was occupying his time elsewhere, not deliberately, not really. He was seeking the space he needed to mull it over and up till that point he still didn't figure it out. But the deadline was looming and had to have something to show. He launched Excel and made his characteristic adjustments to the default font, row height, column width, and sighed. And continued well into the night.
The next morning he had a meeting to review the slides and as pissed as he was during the session, he acknowledged, at least to himself, the shortcomings flagged. Next up was the weekly meeting with the team. The team didn’t show. But the newly-hired coach to assist his project was there and they met for the first time. He wanted to review the slides but the coach had something else planned. In the end, they would both accomplish what each had desired to, and again, he was the one battered and bruised in the aftermath. The coach had pointed out several other faults with the slides, that, had he given himself more time to prepare, would have never seen the light of day. In the end, the changes were significant, but subtle, and he submitted the slides within the hour.
Surprisingly enough, that afternoon, he was called into the room on schedule. He started the presentation with only one of his team members present - the others trickled in within the first five minutes. He introduced his points and called on the respective persons to speak, stepping aside to refocus the audience’s attention on each in turn. And although the slides didn't conform to his personal standards, overall it went well. Senior management was fully engaged from the start and stayed that way throughout the session - he had challenges with that in the past. The questions posed were mostly relevant - previously this wasn't the case. And the effort and content were praised by multiple persons at the end of it all, more so than usual.
He met the coach the next day who offered the feedback he needed. ”You spoke a lot to the screen. Your pacing back and forth was in poor taste. Your hand movements were very distracting. And you should have put down the water bottle.” The coach was right on all counts. This was a wake-up call - he wasn't as good as he should have been and he always knew that, but here was someone who would specifically tell him how. In that instant, it occurred to him that his message didn't warrant changing - but rather, it was him, the messenger. He had gotten sloppy from being stagnant for far too long and it was apparent to all who cared to observe. It was embarrassing but only for a fleeing moment because he also found it refreshing, this need to reinvent. This would be a new project of sorts, one that was overdue for implementation. And it was time to get started with that.