Don’t take no for an answer. Take it for a question. Make the word “no” mean this question: ‘Can’t you be more creative than that?’
– Steve Chandler
When I ended my post 5 things Every PM Should Know Before Leaving Home, I knew the list was extremely short. It was also a very personal list. I hope they were helpful to you, but they were the things I needed to know before I left home for work.
Life has a way of squeezing you until something comes out. Sometimes you learn something in the process. Following are 5 more things a PM should know before leaving home. Given another couple of weeks in October, I’m sure I could come up with more, but I promise to leave it at 5.
5 More Things that Every Project Manager should know:
- Your Own Best Practices
Last month, Kevin Eikenberry wrote a post on knowing what values you pledge your allegiance to. Essentially, he wrote that when you live in a way that’s connected to your values, you will be happier and more successful. This is good advice for project management as well.
Most project managers have their own best practices, or lessons that have been burnt into their hides from less than optimal experiences. Understanding what those are will make you less likely to be moved by circumstances or “strange attractors” on your projects. You’ll make decisions based on your own values or best practices.
If you’re a brand new project manager, the PMBOK can be a place to find tools to start your own toolbox of best practices. If you’re worried that you don’t have enough experience, be patient. Being a project manager will bring you life lessons.
- How to Read the Atmosphere
In Japanese, the phrase 空気読めない (or kuuki yomenai – not able to read the atmosphere) is used to describe people who act or say the wrong things. For some people, reading the atmosphere comes to them as easily as swimming seems to come to baby seals. For others, it is something that must be worked at every day.
When trying to introduce change (which can be part of your job as a project manager) knowing how to read the atmosphere can be the difference between getting agreement and walking away from a meeting feeling frustrated.For those who are challenged in reading the atmosphere, as I am, sometimes the best advice is listen to what’s being said before you speak.
Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving til the right answer arises by itself?
– Tao Te Ching
- How to Laugh at Yourself
Do you have a tendency to fall into routines that you follow religiously? Do you become irritated when things don’t fall into place the way they “should”? It’s at times like these that I’ve found laughter to be particularly useful in shaking off the self-righteous pose I assume at those times.
Laughter also helps me view the situation more constructively. If these flaws resemble you, it will help to find your funny bone underneath your irritation. Without a sense of humor, you will be miserable.
- How to Learn from the Unexpected
Sometimes right after you find out that the way ‘you’ve always done it’ won’t work here, you realize that you’re stuck. That’s the signal that it’s time to learn.
Situations that show up unexpectedly can be things that you devoutly wish did not exist. This is when learning to step around the strong emotion (hate, anger, fear) so that you can learn from the mess can be very useful. Or you can sit in the strong emotion and stay stuck. Your choice.
- How to be Flexible
Now if you’ve managed to read the atmosphere, learn from a difficult situation and laugh at yourself, you may find that to get work done, you have to adjust your approach. The strength that brought you this far may be the weakness that will cripple you if you fail to be flexible.
If you have to use a new tool, approach or method, do it graciously. Hanging on to what ‘worked’ before makes you look foolish and you miss out on an opportunity to learn. Everything in moderation, remember? Unless someone’s asking you to do something unethical (which I know you would never do because of the PMI Code of Conduct), give the new idea a shot. The world won’t end. Your view of what works may change, but that’s all good. Growth is the goal.
This is another short list. In your opinion, what things should a Project Manager know about themselves? Leave me a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.