In late October, the Project Management Institute asked its Twitter followers to scare a project manager in five words or less.
The answers were creative and relatable, but one stuck out: Don’t define roles and responsibilities.
Yikes! That would certainly scare me.
Clarifying roles and responsibilities for people is necessary to achieve project success. I don’t want to work with a team or group that thinks this level of detail isn’t required. Taking the time to define this is critical, yet we repeatedly run into situations where people don’t recognize the importance of this step or don’t know how to do it.
It can be hard to ask for help.
We have been programmed to believe that strength is individual, that asking for help is a sign of weakness.
This mentality, however, deprives us of the power that can come from working together, instead of alone.
At Reach Partners, we have observed that good leaders recognize that they can’t do everything alone.
We’ve seen that the best leaders take that one step further; they know how to ask for exactly what they need while empowering others to contribute.
Here’s how that played out recently:
We all have different ways of evaluating information. Some of us are quiet thinkers; others like to write things down before sharing our thoughts.
Several of our clients are verbal processors. Some of these leaders describe themselves as such – they know who they are. Others don’t necessarily see identify themselves as verbal processors, usually because they’re quieter by nature.
Verbal processors aren’t always the loudest people in the room, but they do need to speak aloud to make sense of the world, to process perspectives, to refine ideas, and to make the breakthroughs.
When a team invites Reach Partners to join them, we’re asked to provide focus on a project. Even if the team members work side-by-side each day, they often need help with the pace of the project – the way a project’s progress moves forward.
Different than a timeline or milestones, pacing is about understanding when to pause or slow down and when to speed ahead. Every milestone in a project’s plan deserves its own sense of pace.
When times and projects are rough, we have some advice: grab chocolate and a project manager.
It’s likely not surprising to you that we would recommend a project manager. The chocolate might be a bigger mystery. But eating chocolate (or another favorite treat) is one of the many ways leaders can ground themselves amid stress.
In recognition of this, here are three ways you can mitigate panic and stress when projects go awry. The following is good counsel for all of us. It’s an especially busy time for Anita and me. We hear it’s the same for our clients, trusted vendors and friends. While I write this for you, the advice is really for me.
There’s a common saying that fences make good neighbors.
The underlying assumption is that people get along better when there is separation, that relationships need defined space.
Our best work happens when people break down those fences and come together. We believe that collaboration leads to the best ideas and the best path forward. We know from experience that we can do more together than alone.
We talk a lot about communication. Mostly because it’s hard to do well, and it helps to keep stakeholders on the same page. But there’s something else that motivates us.
Identifying the audience is one of the biggest challenges we face in communicating well. Who needs to hear a message? What do they need to know? When do they need to know it?
Communication influences how an audience perceives a project or event.
How and when you present a message is as important as the words or images you choose to share. Apply empathy and take time to figure out what your audience needs to know.
If you’ve been reading our posts for any length of time, you’ll know one of our mantras: communication is vital.
You need to clearly communicate to make progress on any type of project. This is true whether you’re getting married, going on a family reunion trip, managing a public health crisis or volunteering on a fundraising committee.
Now, communication is something we do everyday. But doing it well is more complex than sending an email or having a brief conversation. Because here’s the super-secret deal: communication is a two-way process. Communication is as much about your audience – the people you want to do something or know something – as it is about your message.
This is why we advocate thinking through the needs of everyone involved and building a communication plan.
All it takes are five simple ingredients to add creamy flavor to fried potatoes and punch to baked salmon. Those same five ingredients can serve as a base for a scrummy potato salad and the unsung heroes of a BLT sandwich.
When you combine garlic, mustard, egg, oil and lemon, you get an unforgettable garlicky mayonnaise, also known as aioli. Those individual ingredients are certainly tasty, but they become magical when combined. By slowly adding oil while whipping the other ingredients, the liquids emulsify and create a custard-like spread. Yum!
Like mayo, the ingredients for a planning process are simple. Yet they form something new when combined. When blended, purpose, people, time, communication, and action become key ingredients to projects, events and collaborations we deem successful.
We know that projects take time and effort. We expect to spend hours on project timelines, project budgets, and project deliverables whether we’re planning an event, constructing a building, or installing public art.
At Reach Partners, we do this well. We are, after all, project managers.
That said, the term “project management” doesn’t completely describe our work.
Every project we do involves or affects people. After all, without their input and responses, our projects are meaningless. An event doesn’t happen without presenters, attendees, organizers, and vendors. Buildings aren’t constructed without engineers, architects, funders, and those who occupy its spaces.
And public art without an artist and viewers? Well . . .
Truth be told, project management is as much about people management and relationship building as it is about shuffling plans, timelines, and budgets. We spend a considerable amount of our time working with stakeholders and keeping them engaged in the work.
Your partners in leadership.