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.
You know you can improve your professional self. Of course you know and of course, you can.
The ‘how’ is the problem.
The mother of all self-improvement initiatives happens the first day of any given year. As we shrug off the lingering effects of the night before, we vow to make some changes to better ourselves. I’ve done it, you’ve done it.
By that, I mean made the vows, not the actual changes. We start off with much promise, signing up for workshops, programs and gym memberships and by March they’re just so many rollover items on our credit card statements making us feel just a bit worse than we did on December 31st. New Year’s resolutions are an excellent example of good intentions gone bad.
So can we change? Well, of course, we can. But it doesn’t involve a list.
Often it’s just one thing. Don't try to change everything at once and forever. Maybe just change one thing at a time.
Here’s why. When we try to change too much at once, the combination of learning those changes while maintaining the rhythm of our lives is just too much for most of us.
Consider any one of the sessions you’ve been in or perhaps led. There are always takeaways, sometimes implicit, mostly explicit, to spur change in our professional strategies.
There is always a PowerPoint slide suggesting you “please go to the action plan and jot down what you will do differently as a result of having finished this module”.
So when you’re sitting down the day after the class, you review the 12 things that you have now committed to doing differently based on the entire class. But, here’s the thing. You're not going to succeed at any of them because you're taking on too big a task, twelve of them to be exact.
So was the session a waste? Nooo, not at all. But how many habits can you really change at a time?
Not as many as we might hope. But even then, it’s not that simple. It’s about the scale and number of the changes. Most importantly, it's about both those factors and you: how many you can handle. That’s not easy to quantify as it involves so many shifting variables; your schedule and your life among them.
Let’s tackle this another way. Let’s go back - or ahead - to New Year’s Eve and changes we want to make.
I think we make the mistake of quantifying the changes too quickly. Consider your desire to be healthier in the coming year. You’ve learned that aiming for a specific amount of pounds or inches hasn’t worked for you. So, in 2020 you resolve to be healthier. This is good. Now, what does that mean to you?
Does it mean joining a gym, taking up a cooking course focused on healthy eating or just something as simple as walking to work once a week?
This is exactly the process we use when discussing project strategies with clients. What does success look like to them? Do you start with a solution? Ideally, I would hope not. The smart questions center around how they see this project changing their company or business. From there, solutions and strategies develop.
As goes your clients, so go your resolutions. Smart resolutions.
Set your goals, one at a time. But make it a smart goal, be it your health or a new car. Focus on what that success means to you and shape it as you move toward your goal. Let the solutions develop from the goal.
When done incrementally your goals will be achievable. Don't start with a solution. Start with your vision of success for you or a client and let it grow from there.
What does success mean to you? Are they successes or just re-positioned solutions? If you find these ideas key to growing your project management prowess, please be in touch with Kimi or Michael at email@example.com.