Tuesday, 04 November 2014 00:00

Six Uncomfortable Steps

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Everyone loves and seeks comfort ...in fact; its pursuit is a multibillion-dollar industry in the US. We’ve got padded toilet seats, heated, cooled and massaging seats, mattresses that are multi-adjustable and a myriad of other comfort apparatuses.

Discomfort on the opposite side of the spectrum elicits thoughts of everything painful … both physically and emotionally. Theses are things we fear and actively avoid like public speaking, heights, or dental work.

When comfortable, we’re content to stay in our warm and happy cocoons … not to be bothered or challenged to think of the things that can or should be bettered.

Contributions to staying snuggled in our professional comfort zone(s) are many, including being typecast (working niche projects for years at a time without venturing into new territory) general apathy and the general fear of change. Occupational “Comfort” is sometimes confused with success (staying close to what we’re comfortable with, in terms of management style, project type, etc.) and is often also self-imposed. As Project managers, we must realize that however uncomfortable, there are many benefits that can be realized with taking “baby” steps from our comfort zone(s).

Despite your comfortable predicament, here are six individual steps to take that while temporarily uncomfortable, will provide greater “comfort” in the long run.

Be your own project Auditor.

Some may argue that this is too difficult given the PM’s proximity to the scope and issues of the project. I contend that there are always areas of improvement.

This step requires a temporary suspension of disbelief. Pretend for a moment that your project belongs to someone else … and that the owner is coming to you for advice on how to make things better …well ... no one knows about this better than you, right? Review each knowledge area and make notes about needed change.

Scope, time, cost, quality, Human Resources, procurement, risk and … wait for it … communication!!! If all relevant stakeholders are 100% informed and participating, all parties fully aware of all elements of the project, costs are in line and overtly documented, risks are fully vetted etc. etc. you get the picture. Part of this exercise involves stepping back from the project for a moment for added perspective.

External Feedback - Use personal feedback forms

Often times we as PM’s do not receive the feedback we need to grow professionally. This is largely our respective fault for not soliciting it. Most stakeholders are happy to let you know their opinion on your performance, just ask! The risk here is that you will come away with a few bumps and bruises. The opportunity for gaining future comfort comes with lessons learned regarding your performance. More valuable insights will come from stakeholders that don’t “sugar-coat” their feedback.

Hone your Personal PM Brand

  1. Highlight what you bring to the table that is unique and specific.
  2. Clean up your on line profile – more and more attention is being paid to professional social media formats and your professional on-line profile.
  3. Volunteer to speak a local meeting or gathering of professionals.
  4. Work toward relevant professional certifications
  5. Craft and hone your elevator pitch

For a deeper dive, here, check out the following Project Times Article on personal PM Branding!

Hone Social Intelligence skills

Social Intelligence is one of at least 6 distinct "intelligence's" or dimensions of human performance now recognized by scientists and educators. According to Dr. Karl Albrecht, "people who have a highly developed sense of Social Intelligence have more friends, better relationships, more successful careers and happier lives than those who lack those skills." Conduct a bit of research on improving your “SI.”

See Opportunity in Risk

Challenge your team to turn Risks on their ears --- if nothing else …look into this possibility. Danger, there could be a positive off-shoot (generating more work) as new opportunities require initiating new projects. New projects are often billable and revenue generating!

Step forward for uncomfortable assignments

Here’s where the growth begins. Yes, I am suggesting that you step forward for difficult and uncomfortable assignments. What are the risks?

You just might learn something new … possibly something you really enjoy or have a knack for.

Careful, you just might make valuable professional contacts and expand your network.

You’ll likely gain influence and confidence and learn something you can improve upon when you ask for feedback

What’s the cost of not doing it??? Basically missing out on all of the above!

Taking the six steps above, while temporarily uncomfortable (and not nearly as much as dental work) will likely provide you with new management insights and confidence, enhance your professional image, improve your relationship with your teams, highlight opportunities and provide in-roads for future success.

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Sean Lowe

Sean Lowe is a project manager and freelance writer with 20 years of experience managing systems integration, process development, security and compliance projects. He is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP®) by the Project Management Institute. He can be reached at Lowesean@mac.com.

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