Magic Eight Ball Wisdom for New Project Managers

Advice is one of those things it is far more blessed to give than to receive.
-Carolyn Wells


If I had created the world…

Ice cream would be calorie-free and…

Every newbie Project Manager would have a PM Toolkit that comes with instructions on when to use each Tool or Technique.

Like a Promise Box*, you could reach inside the Project Advice Box and pull out just the right Tip or PMBOK quote to get advice when things are sliding in the wrong direction.

Unfortunately, beyond the Magic Eight Ball, there is no such thing as an advice generator. As a result, many PMs end up learning hard lessons and generating their own set of best practices.

When I read No Time for Tact: 365 Days of the Wit, Words and Wisdom of Larry Winget, I recognized five pieces of advice that would have been great starter cards for the Project Advice Box.

If only the world were mine…

Jan 21: Sometimes you lose. When it happens, don’t be a jerk about it. Sometimes you win. When it happens, don’t be a jerk about it.

This is hard. Despite numerous humiliations, it never seems to get easier. Keep in mind that you want to continue working with people 5 minutes after your humiliation or victory and stay away from the keyboard. Or the phone. Or talking about it to other people. Move onto the next thing and stay focused on the end goal: the team finishing the project successfully (which by the way is more than just finishing on time with quality).

Jan 23: Inspect what you expect.
Stuff doesn’t happen just because you expect it to happen; You have to make sure it happens by inspecting the progress.

Ronald Reagan had a saying that I love to quote because it helps me remember not to be as gullible as I used to be: Trust, but Verify.

Feb 8: Manage priorities, not time.

Time will not expand, no matter how well you plan your day. Accept the fact that much of what you want to do will fall off the plate by the end of the day. Identify what must be done before you leave and focus on getting everything on that list crossed off. You’ll feel like you accomplished something, in spite of the 200 emails in your In-box.

April 20: A guaranteed way to avoid criticism: Say nothing. Do nothing. Be nothing.

I spent a lot of time as a newbie project manager sweating on the keyboard when responding to email because I was worried about what other people would think. Ten minutes later, I would see positive responses and I would wonder what I had been so worried about. Focus on doing your job. Do your best, then let it go.

Sept 23: Focus on what you need to do right now. Too much time is spent worrying about what happened in the past or fretting about what might happen in the future. The past is just that: passed. It has passed by you and is over, so move on. The future probably isn’t going to be as bad as you imagine it to be.

Focus on the present.It’s all you’ve really got to work with.

When one of my project’s crashed and burned, I had to make a decision about whether I wanted to obsess over the failure endlessly (my preferred method to handle problems) or let it go and keep moving forward. Fortunately, I did not have any time to waste, I had to start tracking the recovery plan. It was a good decision and it’s been good advice for other areas of my life since then. Stay 100% in the Present. You’ll be far more effective than if you’ve left part of your attention in the past.

Larry Winget’s book has a lot of other advice that can make you laugh or wince, depending on which side of the hammer you end up on. Do you know of any other great truisms that would serve as great starter cards for the Project Advice Box?  Leave me a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

*Promise Boxes, for those who are not from my region of the country or my religious tradition, are boxes with Bible scriptures and associated promises written on them. They used to be very popular devotional aids: pull out a card, read a promise, say a prayer for the promise.


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