When you enter the world of project management you are taking on a world full of the kind of challenges that either keep you young or age you in a hurry – I like to think it’s done a little bit of both for me.
One of the things I love most about project management is that it is, fundamentally, a service profession. After all, nearly all of the projects we execute are in service of someone’s objective, someone’s target – and our own objectives and targets are tied up in helping them achieve those things. What we may be less aware of is how many people – our sphere of influence – can be affected by not just what we do but how we do it, who we talk with and how we interact with them.
This is not going to be another take on leading by example – although that is one of the central points of understanding your sphere of influence. Instead we’re just going to start the conversation about it.
Your sphere of influence affects how you work as a project manager – a project leader – regardless of what your favorite approach is, your special gifts of team leadership or whichever specific area of project management is your passion. Are you a real fiend about schedules? Have you made a name for yourself balancing reality, risk and rationale to effectively manage project risk?
Your sphere of influence can really impact your work. This is because your work is dependent upon the other people in your team as you travel together towards fulfilling those objectives and targets that others count on you for.
This illustrates how you can more accurately estimate your sphere of influence:
Picture a series of concentric circles.
In the center are all of the people that you’ll have direct contact with on a regular basis – you know, conversations, meetings, emails directly between the two of you or two or three of you.
In the next ring are those folks that you have a less direct level of contact with. These are those people who might reasonably be called witnesses. They’re in the room but not necessarily in the conversation.
The next largest ring has the people who are in direct contact with your direct contacts. It might also hold the people that you have immediate but indirect contact with. (Try saying that 3 times in a row – whew!)
If we want to, we can keep going and going – and in a world where so many people are connected on social media, whether or not they are connected emotionally, those circles can get pretty big and pretty crowded.
So let’s think about taking another look at how we know people, connect with people and are of service to people. Let’s be more present and aware of our potential impact.
Does this mean that you can’t be spontaneous? No – what it does mean is that you have a greater impact than you might have understood – it means that you can really affect so many. So cool – and, for the evolved leader, a great opportunity – a great responsibility.
How will you use your sphere of influence?