Have you ever accidentally gotten in your own way? Every project manager, every project leader balances the wants and needs of their clients. Sometimes, though, we forget that what we’re making, all respect to the pride of professionalism in our team members, doesn’t actually belong to us! So a shout out to my wonderful colleagues – how do you keep your team’s focus on what the customer needs?
As a extrovert – someone who gets a lot of energy from interactions with others – I have somehow managed to have some of my strongest partnerships with introverts – loners. I always figured that it was just proof that opposites really DO attract.
Well, it turns out that, according to some truly smart folks at Princeton, introverts might just save the species. In fact, apparently in their studies of various animal populations, the loners tended to be the ones who would avoid things that could kill in large swathes. For the loners who live by themselves, they are significantly more likely to not get what ever bug or virus is going around. They’re also a whole lot less likely to get stressed over strict limitations on socializing opportunities. Some of us extroverts? Not so much.
We’re starting to talk with the pictures on our desk. This sounds to me like yet another demonstration of the strengths of a diverse group. Get those different perspectives about what works and why. Ask people to put their strengths forward. In John Maxwell’s now famous 360∘ Leadership model we learned that the most effective leadership comes from who is the strongest at solving a particular problem.
So let’s keep in mind that those quiet folks, the ones who might need a bit of coaxing to verbally participate – might well be in the strongest position to survive troubling health situations with their sanity intact. They are also leading by example – finding satisfaction in things that extroverts like me don’t always reach for – activities or hobbies we may have long left in favor of sharing conversation and wine with friends at a restaurant.
What can I do?! Interestingly enough folks have begun posting semi-desperate requests for suggestions about what to do now that they've exhausted their back-burner to-do lists. It turns out that sometimes the thing that will help you amp up your creativity (i.e., new ideas) is the very thing that seems to be last thing you want - boredom. Whether it is physical boredom or mental boredom, you might well get a glimmer of a new idea simply because, without all of the usual noise of busy-ness, there is room for that whisper of an idea to grow and be heard.
What the blazes will it take before people are confident enough to achieve an environment of diverse opinions, levels of experience, types of education, and background?!? Is it fear? Is it insecurity? Or have we simply not made the case strongly enough?
The vast interdependencies of any organization’s projects mean that no single person will likely be able to know or manage every possible impact of a project. Why WOULDN’T you reach for the smartest, the widest breadth of experience possible? What will you do to help open minds, break down biases?
I have a love/hate relationship with time management. You know, you love what good time management delivers. You hate the feeling that you’re focusing on time management so much that you wonder how much time you’re spending on it!
When I (accidentally) started in project management, one of my first mentors gave me a tip that is still useful.
Bob is a big man with a slight southern drawl, loads of experience and a low-key manner. He also had a strong commitment to helping his protégés avoid scar tissue. Unfortunately, scar tissue was most of your education when nobody called you a project manager, but that’s what you were. One day he pulled me aside.
“You’re working way too hard and way too long each day,” he observed.
What!? Wasn’t that what I was supposed to do? Work hard, put in the hours, and wasn’t that why my teams were delivering great results?!
“You can make more money, but you can’t make more time. If your teams help you manage your time better, you’re going to hit the end of the week being less tired mentally, less cranky, and less like you’re looking forward to sleeping your whole weekend away. It means you’re really ready for the upcoming week and all the work that needs to get done in that week.
Ask your folks to put three numbers at the start of their emails.
411 means they need information – timely response, please, but not urgent
611 means they have a problem – please respond at your first opportunity
911 means they REALLY have a problem – please respond, MAKE the opportunity to.”
Having said his piece, Bob strolled back to his office.
This simple tool gave me a better handle on how to use best my time in responding.
Although people know about those codes, it’s nice to see how they can use them. A micro-creative perspective that’s been very productive.
What is your go-to time management tool or suggestion, Judy Balaban, Andy Kaufman, Mark Watson, Jane von Kirchbach, George Wang, Lisa Blake, Greg Hall, Cate Brady, Andrew Neuman? Who would like to share?