Welcome to My Project Delight

welcome to MPDI became a project manager by accident. Many years ago, the only opening at an organisation I wanted to work for was mysteriously called ‘project manager’. I applied, successfully passed the competition and they offered me the job. I hardly realised back then what the job is about and what to expect. I was all smiles on my first day. The organisation did its best, but it was also going through change management. I continued to put on a brave face. Very soon an avalanche of a multi million Euro projects portfolio, I was supposed to “manage”, challenged my smile with a smirk: “Let’s see your talents now”. Needless to say that as soon as my previous employer got back to me, I returned to the job I felt comfortable at.

In time, project management became a professional delight and I always cherishes my first experience. I wish back then I had a mentor or coach, or resources, which would explain the tips and tricks of the trade.  This blog is inspired by my younger self and the every day learner I am aspiring to be. Myprojectdelight.com is my Giving Pledge.

I manage projects mainly in the development management environment, which fosters numerous transferable skills and competences for both private and public sectors.

Generosity and knowledge sharing are my values. I offer tips whenever I can. “Tips are like hugs, without the awkward body contact” I once read next to a tips box in a cafe in an airport. So are the tips on this blog.

Enjoy it, thrive and share it around you!

The five habits of warmhearted project managers in times of adversity

This global crisis reverberates on many if not all aspects of our lives. Projects are not immune to that. For many project managers, as any other professions, it will became a test of resilience.

Over years, I noticed that a certain magic balance between a cool head and a warm heart transformed good project managers into great leaders at any level, regardless of the team’s size and type of business.

While my fellow colleagues offer seamingly endless manifestations of professional warmth in these times of adversity, I noticed five most common habits of project managers who practice it:

1. Warmhearted project managers do a well-being check first and a delivery status check after. They know or are eager to learn how are everyone’s families.

2. They give praise in public and keep the rest in private. Be it online or in the office.

3. They will “discriminate” in favour of the most vulnerable, be it in the team or among other stakeholders. They will produce that report for a team member who as a single mother has to take care of three little kids while teleworking.

4. When frustration goes up or anger boils up, they will not turn their cheek. They will simply wait until tomorrow. They will pick up the phone and talk it through.

5. They are kind to themselves and to others. They know what to say and when to say it. The also know the value of “silence is gold”. Especially in times of adversity.

Top five most frequent questions in time of crisis

These past two weeks, I have been contacted for advice on what to do with projects in these new and unexpected circumstances. Crisis management, here we come.

While my advice and tips matched the variety of situations the projects were in, I noticed several common take aways:

1. Damage control and remaining in control are strongly interdependent. Analyse what you can control and acknowledge that you cannot control the pandemic and its extent. Unless you are a project manager in a hospital in an epicenter.

2. Analyse your project’s work plan/charts and be honest about what can be done in the period announced by the authorities if your country as a confinement/quarantine. Have a plan B and be ready to change it, as things evolve. Communicate it well to all concerned: sponsor, stakeholders, providers, consultants.

3. Check all your contracts, the obligations part in particular, both yours and the other parties’. Now it’s the time for forgotten or overlooked things to come to light. Get the help of your organisation’s lawyer, if needed. Check the clauses on causes for suspension and delays for payments. Notify the other party, if required so. For contractual matters, check what you can agree on and sign electronically.

4. Now it’s the time to move online if you have not done it yet. There is a variety to choose from, from Trello, Monday, Basecamp to Zoom and clouds. Make the technology work for you.

5. Teams will watch you for cues. So, control yourself, by distinguishing your fears from facts. Acknowledge team members’ fears. Offer a mirror of calm. Help when you can. Summon all your empathy and compassion.

The seven habits of mentally strong project managers

Over the last two decades, I worked with numerous project managers from different industries and the ones who are rock strong share a number of things in common. Now more than ever these habits will be tested and new ones will be developed. I’ll leave these ones below for now:

1. Mentally strong project managers practice self-awareness. They know that mental strength is their choice which requires commitment and a big sense of humour. They prefer self-irony to ego.

2. As they are building on self-awareness, they remain pro-active. They will pick up the phone first. They own the mistakes and failure. They act responsibly towards the team, the client and the sponsor.

3. They practice humility. They are humble enough to acknowledge that there are things they cannot control. They will however take seriously damage control. They refocus their attention on the things they can control and take the team through this. They care about what the team and the client thinks. The rest is a facebook thread to them.

4. They say “Hello, gorgeous!” to the unexpected, and projects by definition are plentiful of those. They know that even with the best of planning skills, there is a great deal of unchartered waters. Mentally strong project managers are as flexible as a willow and turn adversity into opportunity to bring return on investment.

5. They are best pals with risk management. They will ponder, calculate, analyse, involve others. They will put people first and thus sleep well.

6. They put relationships first. They know that reports, deliveries and milestones will become past. Relationships last.

7. They keep things in perspective and share it with others. They will respond to a colleague’s call for help and give the best of advice they can.

Thought of the week: emails – revisited

I’ll just leave this here for good use. Especially during these remote work days, when emails replace in person conversations.

When putting words in writing is hard these days (for old reasons+all these current unknowns), offering to talk in person at the first chance to get in person is an honest response. It shows respect by acknowledging respect and it give time for things to settle and/ or perspectives to change.

email like a boss

all credit goes to Dan Donovan (copyright).