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When You're Always the Overly-Prepared One On Your Work Team

You've been preparing for a major team presentation to a potential client, and today is the day when you get to show off all your diligent prep work!

But not your teammate who prefers to let the moment...evolve. This colleagues likes to let everything come together last minute, on stage, in front of an audience.

Maybe your co-worker likes to give you a hard time for putting so much sweat equity into your PowerPoint presentations. Why bother? You never know what's going to happen, so preparing can be a waste of time. The universe will provide, the stars with align, so let's fly by the seat of our pants as we carry the day! Spontaneity is the spice of life, as they say.

Last night's presidential debate was a study in how to study. One the one side, we had the student who (it seemed obvious) had poured over her notes and practiced, leaving little room for debate regarding her debate readiness. On the other side, we had the student who could have practiced more, but maybe had other things to do?

Maybe, like Ms. Clinton, you've found your studious self pushed into the proverbial corner to defend your life-long penchant for always being prepared. It's like high school all over again. Why yes, I did do my homework and I'm proud of that fact. I make no apologies for showing up prepared.


To me, this small moment from last night's debate highlights a very common workplace struggle over how to prepare for major team presentations. Who hasn't watched this moment play out at work between two colleagues -- the one who diligently prepares vs. the one who prefers to live in the moment -- before heading into a conference with a major client? It's two differing presentation styles at play that can lead to much debate (and hard feelings) on the job.

Last night's "preparedness" exchange also speaks to a subtle cultural shift we've experienced over the last decade. Thanks to reality television, social media and Twitter as a news (and interview) source, we've become accustomed to watching people go off-script and be spontaneous in the moment. Spontaneity is cool in 140 characters (or more). So why are we still parsing our words so carefully and showing up so well-prepared for everything? How boring!

In fact, encountering the very well-prepared, self-controlled, highly-studious professional in the mind-to-keyboard age might feel like a slight cause for concern, because it makes them seem somehow...too calculated. Like they were planning something.

Yes. They were planning to be prepared to answer all your questions!

Preparation is good. Preparation is still important. Preparation takes planning and thought, as well as an ability to follow through and focus. Most of all, preparation is a sign of respect for the people in the audience, because it means we took the time to make sure we weren't wasting their time.

So don't stop doing your prep work every day! Somebody has to do the homework that carries the entire team, and your preparatory skills are to be admired. I hope your diligence pays off for you someday, too.


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