How to become an All-Terrain Project Manager

The more successful projects you deliver, the more likely it is that your management or clients will call upon you to lead more complex projects that are outside your repertoire of skills and even beyond your domain of technical expertise. When you deliver the goods on these projects, success will strengthen your self-confidence and enhance your personal brand. On the flip side, failing to deliver can cause irreparable damage to your reputation, and potentially, your career.

So what should you do when such an opportunity or challenge presents itself?

Should you accept it or decline it? Here are three reasons why you may be forced to accept them:

The Stakes are High

There are projects that, if they fail, can cost people in higher positions above you their jobs and tarnish their reputations. They may call upon you to lead such projects because you are the only person they trust.

Saying “No” is Detrimental to Your Career

Sometimes you need to engage in such projects because they will enhance your chances for further career growth. Saying “no” can lead people to pigeonhole you as not capable to lead tough projects. Then it may take you a long time to shake this negative stigma.

You are expected to take on the Tough Projects

The more senior you become in an organization, the more your managers will expect you to take on tough projects. If you are a highly paid project manager, you will be expected to produce to prove your worth. Saying “no” to difficult assignments can create doubt about your value to the organization and the compensation you receive.

Do you have what it takes to lead such projects?

When we are asked to lead, people look to us for more than our project management skills or subject matter expertise. We are asked to lead because of who we are as individuals. Our project management skills are but one dimension of what people see in us. They also see other dimensions: our interpersonal skills and our self-mastery skills.

I think some project managers can’t cope with the stress of working on projects outside their comfort zone. But I truly believe that most of us have the capacity to manage these types of projects. When we think we don’t, it is generally due to a lack of self-confidence or to our own limiting beliefs about our capabilities.

How do you prepare yourself?

Here are three things I found to be helpful:

Practice, Practice, Practice

Long before we have to, we should try to take on projects that force us to deal with people, problems, and conditions totally unfamiliar to us. We need to seek opportunities that will expose us to a full range of experiences beyond what we are used to.

One way to do this is to volunteer for small and low visibility projects that present a real challenge to us, but where failure is not costly. These projects will give us a safe environment where we can afford to experiment and take greater risks than we are used to. These are opportunities to exercise our adaptive muscles and pick up the critical interpersonal and self-mastery skills we will need in the future.

We should practice entering every situation with an experimental mindset. We will improvise, make mistakes, discover what works and what does not, and make the necessary mid-course corrections. We will need to learn to operate at the edge of our knowledge and skills with no guidelines, seven steps, or ten tips. This is where true learning begins.

Develop the Right Mindset

When we go beyond the familiar, our biggest challenges will be managing ourselves and confronting our fears. By putting ourselves outside our comfort zone, we will develop the mental toughness to overcome our own insecurities. We will exercise our adaptive muscles to handle uncertainty and figure things out without relying on the safety net of our familiar technical knowhow. We will learn how to be comfortable feeling and looking incompetent. We will cope with the disorientation that comes from being in unfamiliar territory. We will learn to manage our self-consciousness and self-doubt and develop the resilience to overcome bigger challenges in the future.

Take care of yourself

There is no question that these projects will test your limits, leave you stripped down to the core, and show you what you are really made of. To survive, you will need to take care of yourself.

  • Give yourself permission to fail: Experimenting involves risk, and risk carries the possibility of failure. But without experimenting, we cannot learn. You will be continuously redefining your idea of success.
  • Find mentors, coaches, allies, and co-conspirators: You can’t do it alone and you shouldn’t. Managing projects outside your comfort zone is demanding. You will need your support network to keep you grounded and to sustain you during hard times.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously: Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, said, “Celebrate your success and find humor in your failures. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Loosen up and everyone around you will loosen up. Have fun and always show enthusiasm. When all else fails, put on a costume and sing a silly song.”

One word about methodologies

The reality of organizations and projects today is that they don’t come in a very neatly packaged configuration to which we can apply a single methodology. We need to selectively adopt, adapt, and apply whatever practices will help our teams reach the finish line. Use Waterfall, Scrum, XP, Scrumban, Kanban, or any combination of these methodologies. Just don’t fall in love with any of them and become a “one trick pony”. Use what works and never be intimidated by methodology bullies.

In the changing landscape of today’s projects, with companies doing more with less, you are expected to be versatile. You are expected to be prepared to lead and to actually lead in all situations, not just in those familiar to you. You will need to be resourceful, as you will not always have the luxury of your technical mastery.

If you park too long in your comfort zone, your world will get progressively smaller, until something from outside catches you by surprise. So take the opportunity to develop an all-terrain mindset, so you will have the confidence and capacity when you need to lead your team through unfamiliar, unmapped, and treacherous territory.

One Response to How to become an All-Terrain Project Manager
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How to become an All-Terrain Project Manager

The more successful projects you deliver, the more likely it is that your management or clients will call upon you to lead more complex projects that are outside your repertoire of skills and even beyond your domain of technical expertise. When you deliver the goods on these projects, success will strengthen your self-confidence and enhance your personal brand. On the flip side, failing to deliver can cause irreparable damage to your reputation, and potentially, your career.

So what should you do when such an opportunity or challenge presents itself?

Should you accept it or decline it? Here are three reasons why you may be forced to accept them:

The Stakes are High

There are projects that, if they fail, can cost people in higher positions above you their jobs and tarnish their reputations. They may call upon you to lead such projects because you are the only person they trust.

Saying “No” is Detrimental to Your Career

Sometimes you need to engage in such projects because they will enhance your chances for further career growth. Saying “no” can lead people to pigeonhole you as not capable to lead tough projects. Then it may take you a long time to shake this negative stigma.

You are expected to take on the Tough Projects

The more senior you become in an organization, the more your managers will expect you to take on tough projects. If you are a highly paid project manager, you will be expected to produce to prove your worth. Saying “no” to difficult assignments can create doubt about your value to the organization and the compensation you receive.

Do you have what it takes to lead such projects?

When we are asked to lead, people look to us for more than our project management skills or subject matter expertise. We are asked to lead because of who we are as individuals. Our project management skills are but one dimension of what people see in us. They also see other dimensions: our interpersonal skills and our self-mastery skills.

I think some project managers can’t cope with the stress of working on projects outside their comfort zone. But I truly believe that most of us have the capacity to manage these types of projects. When we think we don’t, it is generally due to a lack of self-confidence or to our own limiting beliefs about our capabilities.

How do you prepare yourself?

Here are three things I found to be helpful:

Practice, Practice, Practice

Long before we have to, we should try to take on projects that force us to deal with people, problems, and conditions totally unfamiliar to us. We need to seek opportunities that will expose us to a full range of experiences beyond what we are used to.

One way to do this is to volunteer for small and low visibility projects that present a real challenge to us, but where failure is not costly. These projects will give us a safe environment where we can afford to experiment and take greater risks than we are used to. These are opportunities to exercise our adaptive muscles and pick up the critical interpersonal and self-mastery skills we will need in the future.

We should practice entering every situation with an experimental mindset. We will improvise, make mistakes, discover what works and what does not, and make the necessary mid-course corrections. We will need to learn to operate at the edge of our knowledge and skills with no guidelines, seven steps, or ten tips. This is where true learning begins.

Develop the Right Mindset

When we go beyond the familiar, our biggest challenges will be managing ourselves and confronting our fears. By putting ourselves outside our comfort zone, we will develop the mental toughness to overcome our own insecurities. We will exercise our adaptive muscles to handle uncertainty and figure things out without relying on the safety net of our familiar technical knowhow. We will learn how to be comfortable feeling and looking incompetent. We will cope with the disorientation that comes from being in unfamiliar territory. We will learn to manage our self-consciousness and self-doubt and develop the resilience to overcome bigger challenges in the future.

Take care of yourself

There is no question that these projects will test your limits, leave you stripped down to the core, and show you what you are really made of. To survive, you will need to take care of yourself.

  • Give yourself permission to fail: Experimenting involves risk, and risk carries the possibility of failure. But without experimenting, we cannot learn. You will be continuously redefining your idea of success.
  • Find mentors, coaches, allies, and co-conspirators: You can’t do it alone and you shouldn’t. Managing projects outside your comfort zone is demanding. You will need your support network to keep you grounded and to sustain you during hard times.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously: Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, said, “Celebrate your success and find humor in your failures. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Loosen up and everyone around you will loosen up. Have fun and always show enthusiasm. When all else fails, put on a costume and sing a silly song.”

One word about methodologies

The reality of organizations and projects today is that they don’t come in a very neatly packaged configuration to which we can apply a single methodology. We need to selectively adopt, adapt, and apply whatever practices will help our teams reach the finish line. Use Waterfall, Scrum, XP, Scrumban, Kanban, or any combination of these methodologies. Just don’t fall in love with any of them and become a “one trick pony”. Use what works and never be intimidated by methodology bullies.

In the changing landscape of today’s projects, with companies doing more with less, you are expected to be versatile. You are expected to be prepared to lead and to actually lead in all situations, not just in those familiar to you. You will need to be resourceful, as you will not always have the luxury of your technical mastery.

If you park too long in your comfort zone, your world will get progressively smaller, until something from outside catches you by surprise. So take the opportunity to develop an all-terrain mindset, so you will have the confidence and capacity when you need to lead your team through unfamiliar, unmapped, and treacherous territory.

One Response to How to become an All-Terrain Project Manager
  1. […] “How to become an All-Terrain Project Manager” – Guerrilla Project Management […]

Leave a Reply to Project Management At Work » Archive » Project Management noteworthy news and commentary (May 7, 2010)

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How to become an All-Terrain Project Manager

The more successful projects you deliver, the more likely it is that your management or clients will call upon you to lead more complex projects that are outside your repertoire of skills and even beyond your domain of technical expertise. When you deliver the goods on these projects, success will strengthen your self-confidence and enhance your personal brand. On the flip side, failing to deliver can cause irreparable damage to your reputation, and potentially, your career.

So what should you do when such an opportunity or challenge presents itself?

Should you accept it or decline it? Here are three reasons why you may be forced to accept them:

The Stakes are High

There are projects that, if they fail, can cost people in higher positions above you their jobs and tarnish their reputations. They may call upon you to lead such projects because you are the only person they trust.

Saying “No” is Detrimental to Your Career

Sometimes you need to engage in such projects because they will enhance your chances for further career growth. Saying “no” can lead people to pigeonhole you as not capable to lead tough projects. Then it may take you a long time to shake this negative stigma.

You are expected to take on the Tough Projects

The more senior you become in an organization, the more your managers will expect you to take on tough projects. If you are a highly paid project manager, you will be expected to produce to prove your worth. Saying “no” to difficult assignments can create doubt about your value to the organization and the compensation you receive.

Do you have what it takes to lead such projects?

When we are asked to lead, people look to us for more than our project management skills or subject matter expertise. We are asked to lead because of who we are as individuals. Our project management skills are but one dimension of what people see in us. They also see other dimensions: our interpersonal skills and our self-mastery skills.

I think some project managers can’t cope with the stress of working on projects outside their comfort zone. But I truly believe that most of us have the capacity to manage these types of projects. When we think we don’t, it is generally due to a lack of self-confidence or to our own limiting beliefs about our capabilities.

How do you prepare yourself?

Here are three things I found to be helpful:

Practice, Practice, Practice

Long before we have to, we should try to take on projects that force us to deal with people, problems, and conditions totally unfamiliar to us. We need to seek opportunities that will expose us to a full range of experiences beyond what we are used to.

One way to do this is to volunteer for small and low visibility projects that present a real challenge to us, but where failure is not costly. These projects will give us a safe environment where we can afford to experiment and take greater risks than we are used to. These are opportunities to exercise our adaptive muscles and pick up the critical interpersonal and self-mastery skills we will need in the future.

We should practice entering every situation with an experimental mindset. We will improvise, make mistakes, discover what works and what does not, and make the necessary mid-course corrections. We will need to learn to operate at the edge of our knowledge and skills with no guidelines, seven steps, or ten tips. This is where true learning begins.

Develop the Right Mindset

When we go beyond the familiar, our biggest challenges will be managing ourselves and confronting our fears. By putting ourselves outside our comfort zone, we will develop the mental toughness to overcome our own insecurities. We will exercise our adaptive muscles to handle uncertainty and figure things out without relying on the safety net of our familiar technical knowhow. We will learn how to be comfortable feeling and looking incompetent. We will cope with the disorientation that comes from being in unfamiliar territory. We will learn to manage our self-consciousness and self-doubt and develop the resilience to overcome bigger challenges in the future.

Take care of yourself

There is no question that these projects will test your limits, leave you stripped down to the core, and show you what you are really made of. To survive, you will need to take care of yourself.

  • Give yourself permission to fail: Experimenting involves risk, and risk carries the possibility of failure. But without experimenting, we cannot learn. You will be continuously redefining your idea of success.
  • Find mentors, coaches, allies, and co-conspirators: You can’t do it alone and you shouldn’t. Managing projects outside your comfort zone is demanding. You will need your support network to keep you grounded and to sustain you during hard times.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously: Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, said, “Celebrate your success and find humor in your failures. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Loosen up and everyone around you will loosen up. Have fun and always show enthusiasm. When all else fails, put on a costume and sing a silly song.”

One word about methodologies

The reality of organizations and projects today is that they don’t come in a very neatly packaged configuration to which we can apply a single methodology. We need to selectively adopt, adapt, and apply whatever practices will help our teams reach the finish line. Use Waterfall, Scrum, XP, Scrumban, Kanban, or any combination of these methodologies. Just don’t fall in love with any of them and become a “one trick pony”. Use what works and never be intimidated by methodology bullies.

In the changing landscape of today’s projects, with companies doing more with less, you are expected to be versatile. You are expected to be prepared to lead and to actually lead in all situations, not just in those familiar to you. You will need to be resourceful, as you will not always have the luxury of your technical mastery.

If you park too long in your comfort zone, your world will get progressively smaller, until something from outside catches you by surprise. So take the opportunity to develop an all-terrain mindset, so you will have the confidence and capacity when you need to lead your team through unfamiliar, unmapped, and treacherous territory.

One Response to How to become an All-Terrain Project Manager
  1. […] “How to become an All-Terrain Project Manager” – Guerrilla Project Management […]

Leave a Reply to Project Management At Work » Archive » Project Management noteworthy news and commentary (May 7, 2010)

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