Reflecting on Perspective: “Seems So Small”

With many thanks to Carrie Underwood So Small - Carrie Underwoodfor singing this beautiful song, it seems fitting during this holiday season to reflect upon the lyrics and apply them to our world of project management:

What you got if you ain’t got love
the kind that you just want to give away
It’s okay to open up
go ahead and let the light shine through
I know it’s hard on a rainy day
you want to shut the world out and just be left alone
But don’t run out on your faith

As project managers, many people look to us for inspiration and leadership.  At times it seems like we’re giving away so much time and energy with little coming back, especially on those “rainy days” when so much seems to go wrong.  We just want to chuck it all.  Those are the times when “opening up” and sharing our vision and passion for the project is the light that shines through.  We cannot run away if we want to be successful.

[Chorus] ‘Cause sometimes that mountain you’ve been climbing is just a grain of sand
What you’ve been up there searching for
forever is in your hands
When you figure out love is all that matters after all
It sure makes everything else
seem so small

Problems have solutions.  I learned that early in my career when troubleshooting difficult equipment problems.  By sitting back, relaxing, and not forcing the issue, the answer I was searching for popped into my head.  It was there all along.  I had to be open to receiving it.  The same applies to working with difficult people.  When we attack issues and not people, show respect, and are patient, amazing results can happen.

[Verse 2] It’s so easy to get lost inside
a problem that seems so big at the time
it’s like a river that’s so wide
it swallows you whole
While you sit around thinking about what you can’t change
and worrying about all the wrong things
time’s flying by
moving so fast
you better make it count ’cause you can’t get it back

I used to treat all issues equally in our systems program.  My manager noticed that I appeared to be “drinking from a fire hose.”  Then I realized the importance of prioritization.  Do not sweat the small things.  Allow some issues to work themselves out on their own.  Honor the ebb and flow of team dynamics—sometimes pushing too hard stymies the natural energy that needs time to develop.  Team discussions on issues far beyond our ability to change or control them were futile, so we tabled those discussions…and kept our meetings on track.  With a philosophy of “no regrets,” I can act in a way that makes each moment count, instead of acting impulsively (or not acting at all!) and wishing I could get that time back.

[Chorus] Sometimes that mountain you’ve been climbing is just a grain of sand
What you’ve been up there searching for
forever is in your hands
When you figure out love is all that matters after all
It sure makes everything else
Seem so small

I came to realize during a stressful team meeting moment, that a year from now we would probably not remember this moment, because the issue is really not that important.  So relax…and work with the people around me in a loving way, because that is what matters, and everything else is not that important.

Best wishes during this holiday season and throughout the New Year.

Randy Englund, Englund Project Management Consultancy,


2 thoughts on “Reflecting on Perspective: “Seems So Small””

  1. User Avatar

    OK, well, my Grinch side is grumbling that “”relaxing and treating people around me in a loving way” doesn’t sound like a recipe for successfully leading challenging project to completion. But I’m willing to sleep on it and see if the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future drop by to help me understand the importance of that, and how to do that when the project sponsor is making unreasonable requests, team members fail to keep their promises on completing action items, and customers change the requirements faster than the team can change the product. Sweet dreams!

    1. User Avatar

      I know, Kimberly, that relaxing may not sound like a recipe for success, but I am glad you are willing to sleep on the concept and hope that you indeed are having sweet dreams! It does work, even in a “scrappy” environment. In spite of all the [realistic but] unreasonable stuff you itemize about stakeholders, they still are the people who can turn the project around. In order to make that happen and lead projects to completion, we need to keep our perspective and “love them” in the sense that Tim Sanders says “love is the next killer app.” The challenging times call for project managers to raise the bar and not get sucked into the negative behaviors around them. Practicing “tender loving care” (TLC) has its place in a PM’s toolkit, even one belonging to the Grinch.

      Randy Englund,

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