Colin D Ellis
Leadership | Culture | Success

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If you're not going to project manage properly, please quit

New Year, New You! 

It's tempting to start my first blog of 2018 in this way. But here's the thing. For the most part, you already know that you don’t need to be a new version of yourself, you just need to do the things that you should already be doing. So the big question is, how badly do you want to do them?

It's all there in black and white. In your job description, your performance reviews and the emails that you received over the last 12 months where people have expressed their concerns, disappointment or provided suggestions.

It's also in the textbooks that you have studied, the blogs that you have read, the TED Talks that you’ve watched, and the things that your partner and friends have told you when you moaned at them in coffee shops and bars around the world.

The start of a new year, of course, provides you with an opportunity to reflect, then make the decision once and for all on how much you want to change in order to be successful in your job? A couple of weeks in, however, and it's very easy to come up with excuses as to why you can't be that person.

Any of these sound familiar?

  • It's the person that you report to
  • It's the people in your team 
  • It's the never ending stream of paperwork
  • It's the organisation's fault for cutting corners or wanting to embrace new ways of working
  • It's the meetings you have to go to
  • It's the hours you don't have in the day
  • It's the remuneration package that you do or don't have
  • It's the opportunity for advancement that you think you’ve been denied.

But these are all just excuses for lacking self-awareness, knowledge or the courage to be the person that can overcome these and other challenges to do the job well. And if your first thought is ‘that’s easy for you to say, Colin, but…’ – that’s an excuse too.

Mastery of any job – project manager, project sponsor or otherwise – requires dedication, commitment and a desire to be different. It requires all of your energy every single day and it demands that you constantly strive to develop the skills to be the best version of yourself to keep you at the top of your game. Whether you like it or not, you are a role model for transformation and it's important that you act like one even when you don’t think people are watching you.

The success of any project or initiative starts with you and your behaviours. It starts with you understanding who you are, how you communicate and what you build.

If you don't know who you are, what you stand for or what you want to achieve then spend some time reflecting on that and set some personal goals.

If you aren’t able to treat people with kindness, empathy and respect then get yourself a mentor or insist on a development program that can give you these (real) skills.

And if you don't know how to build, coach and support a team of people who want to do the right thing in the right way,  invest time with them at the start of the project to collectively build something you can all be proud of.

You can't be the perfect employee every single day of the week, nobody can. You're a human being and you will makes mistakes. But you have to have the intent to be the best you can, learn from your errors and never lose the courage to keep trying different things. 

Support productivity by: 

  • not working long into the evening
  • taking breaks
  • not having back to back meetings
  • having fun
  • celebrating success. 

Most importantly, create a plan – no matter how big or small – that people feel part of and that is achievable. 

Create an enviable culture that supports great work by being:

  • approachable
  • open to new ideas
  • courageous when things aren't going as well as they should be 
  • willing to manage someone who isn't performing (even the senior manager to whom you report).

All of these things are your job as a project manager, and in order to be successful you need to know how to do this all really well and then, crucially, you've got to do it every single working day of every single week throughout the year.

And if you don't want to do all of this then please, PLEASE, quit.

Quit for your own quality of life, health and future prospects. For your organisation that is about to invest millions of dollars in testing and implementing new ideas. For the people who want to do something different. For the team who look to you as a role model for change. And for the next generation of people who are eagerly waiting for an opportunity to demonstrate that they have what it takes to get things done.

Project success rates have been too low for too long, so either get yourself the soft skills to remain relevant, make a difference to people's lives, enhance organisational cultures and to safeguard competitive advantage. Or do us all and yourself a favour and move on.

It may just be the making of you. 

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