The Nature of Project Leadership

Welcome on a metaphorical exploration of project leadership philosophy and practices. I am fortunate to live on 20 acres in the Santa Cruz mountains rising 3000 feet above the Silicon Valley. Out here Mother Nature’s rules are the law. My background as a transformational engineer and a wilderness guide has enabled me to observe these rules from different perspectives which I share with you. There is much to learn from the great outdoors, so put on your virtual hiking boots and take a journey that will hopefully shed new light on current situations that you are managing

Go on a hike into nature and you will be amazed at what you find. Ideas to solve your troubles are there if only you are willing to seek them out. Search and the odds are excellent that you will find, mentor tells me. Innovative ideas are rarely found by those who hope and wish for their situation to improve or those stuck in the drama of complaining. Those who actively pursue will be rewarded. This also applies to the business world, so I applaud your commitment to seek insights from our PM bogging team. Hopefully an idea today will make a difference for you tomorrow.

A wise man once told me that life and business is like the seasons. We’ll explore the various seasons’ relationship to managing the projects from planning to harvest in the coming days. A fundamental principle that underlies nature’s laws is an understanding that some things you cannot change. For example – You can’t change the seasons. Spring will always follow winter and fall after summer. This means don’t waste a minute of time working on issues that are outside of your control. The corollary to this law is an equally powerful belief – You can ALWAYS change yourself. The farmer that learns the lessons of past seasons has improved opportunities for greater success for the harvest next season. Likewise, seeking out education opportunities to transform your beliefs, attitude, skill sets, ability to influence is within your control. These will have a significant impact on your current and future projects if diligent in applying what you have learned.

As an instructor at UCSC-Extension I’m constantly hearing the moans, whines and whimpers of the PMs that have yet to comprehend this truth. There is valuable time and energy being wasted on working issues in areas outside of their circle of control or influence. All for not. Take a moment and brainstorm some of the challenges that stand in your team’s way. Assess what IS and IS NOT within your sphere of control. Then get to work on these things first. Then turn your attention to the other list.

Sometimes opportunities come disguised as problems. It took some optimistic thinking for that first person to see the edible inside of an artichoke despite its thorny exterior. Likewise you may find elements within your control by changing your perspective on issues that on the surface seem impossible. Recognition is one topic that falls into this category. Many PMs think they are handcuffed by financial restrictions to incentivize team members, but fail to see that’s not what research says people really want. The top motivators include being “in on things”, written recognition from manager and help on personal problems. Change your thinking and then seek to find new ideas. It’s natural!

Jeff Richardson


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