READ TIME: 5 minutes
With one holiday down and one fast approaching, it is important to have reminders. A reminder of where you were, where you are, and where you are going. Each year, most people start out with a new outlook on life. They set goals and rearrange priorities. As the year goes on, the tendency is to revert to baseline.
This time of year people are feasting on turkey and relaxing with their families. Complacency tends to creep in. While some rest and relaxation may be what the doctor ordered, your eyes should continue to remain on improvement.
In a project sense, end of the year is the busiest time. Projects are closing out. Deadlines are fast approaching. Accountants want their numbers for any potential audits. Winter tends to shut down construction projects because of the cold. A sense of urgency starts to build.
In his book The Score Takes Care of Itself, Bill Walsh gives readers twelve daily reminders to stay on track. The football season ramps up at the end of the calendar year. The playoffs begin. A run to the Super Bowl is on every player’s and coach’s mind. You play to win the games. Lose, and you go home. The stakes cannot be any higher.
These twelve reminders gave Walsh an opportunity not only to remind others but also himself of what is important and to keep moving in the right direction.
- Concentrate on what will produce results rather than on the results.
The process is the emphasis. Your goals may be in the far off distance at this point. Maybe you went back to school or are studying for the PMP exam. One takes years while the other can take months.
Studying and acquiring the knowledge along the way will ultimately lead to the degree or credential. The knowledge gained is the important part, not the piece of paper you receive at the end. People you meet along the way can change your future forever.
The results you had in mind may not be the results you realize. The corner office and close parking spot were not in the cards, but you end up doing something you enjoy.
- Exhibit an inner toughness emanating from four of the most effective survival tools a leader can possess: expertise, composure, patience, and common sense.
When all the chips are down, and your back is against the wall, you remain strong. The focus is inward toughness. This toughness does not include taking a loud stand against management. Common sense should tell you that is a bad idea.
Your expertise lets you know you have what it takes to get the job done. You have experienced difficulties in the past, and now you will apply that knowledge. Patience and composure allow you to make the right decision under duress.
- Maintain your level of professional ethics and all details of your own Standard of Performance.
No matter how shiny the goal or strokes to the ego, you should keep your ethics strong and maintain your Standard of Performance. Ask yourself, “What if someone else did this, how would you like it?”
People can put themselves in a tough situation where they have to choose between their beliefs and their goals. If getting someone fired to better your financial situation was required, would you do it? Are you compromising your beliefs in the process?
- Don’t isolate yourself.
People want to help. If you try to perform every task on your own, you become bogged down and grow tired. Delegating work to others helps you get more done and includes you in the group. Never delegate work you are unwilling to perform. Handing out tasks because you do not want to do them sets a poor tone for your management style. Inclusion leads to collaboration.
- Don’t let the magnitude of the challenge take you away from the incremental steps necessary to effect change.
A two-year, multi-million-dollar project does not get done in a week. Milestones, phases, gates, and other benchmarks are completed along the way to ensure your progress towards the finish. Walk before you run.
It does not have to be a huge project that intimidates you. It could be a new role in your organization or new job title somewhere else. Becoming a project manager for the first time may seem like a daunting task. Stick with what got you there and continue to learn.
- Exude an upbeat and determined attitude.
You are the leader. People rely on you to be an example. If you are stumbling around the office with your head down moping, your team picks up on that. They begin to feel unsure about the progress of the project and morale dips. No matter the circumstance, there is always a way out. You have to be optimistic you and your team will find a way to make it work.
- Hold meetings with staff educating them on what to expect.
After a while working together, teams can get comfortable, which can lead to complacency. These meetings can be a reminder of what is expected today, tomorrow, and so on. Expectations are not suggestions. You are setting the tone for how your team will operate and reminding them of this.
- Don’t label some concept or new plan that will ‘get us back on track.’
Broad terms do not work. What does ‘get us back on track’ mean? Is the project so bad it is off the rails? Is it going fine but could be better? Is it something that can be helped or is it external factors? The phrasing is received with eye rolls and same old, same old. Something new should not sound old. Be specific about next steps and create measurables to track progress.
- Ensure that an appropriate level of courtesy and respect is extended to all members of the organization.
We are all adults. No one needs to be babysat or spied on or anything of the sort. Give your team members work and expect them to perform because that is why you hired them. Some team members may be better than others. That does not mean you treat them differently. Have your stars of the team help the others to bring the level of your team up a notch. All in all, be human.
- Don’t plead with employees to ‘do better.’
Here is another broad term that helps nobody. What does ‘do better’ mean? Is it faster, more efficient? Is it more accurate? Is it more concise? If you instruct a team member, be specific. Better have different meanings depending on the situation. Make sure there is no confusion as to what better means and how to become it.
- Avoid continual threatening or chastising.
Being a taskmaster gets old. No one likes to be scolded. No one likes to walk on eggshells at all times. Threats are only effective when used occasionally and sought through. If you continually threaten and nothing ever gets done about it, your threats have little to no impact. Just like your projects, your words should be effective too.
- Deal with your immediate superior(s) on a one-to-one, ongoing basis.
Stay up-to-date with the latest changes or potential for change when discussing projects with your boss. He or she should have the latest information for you. Also, keeping it one-to-one relieves the pressure on both parties. There is no one else there to misinterpret data and start rumors. Ongoing is important because projects change, sometimes hourly. Having this open line of communication allows ideas to flow and information to be shared.
Shifting your mindset from the goal to the process relieves stress. If you are young, you should be lost. Even if you are older, not knowing is alright. Trust in the process you have developed for yourself and your projects. You have the experience and demeanor to accomplish anything.
These twelve reminders are there to help you realize success is not a destination. It is a jumping off point for future successes. Stay the course. Celebrate any small wins, because small wins lead to big wins.