PM Articles > Geof Lory > Transitions and Retrospectives

Transitions and Retrospectives

by Geof Lory

The end of a project is a point of transition for the team. The work is over, the budget spent, and typically the team disbands. I feel it is important to mark this change with two events: a retrospective and a celebration. The first is primarily a mental reflection exercise, while the second is an important emotional tagging of the transition itself -- two different purposes that are inextricably linked.

Transition points are important to acknowledge with a sacred marker. In many cultures and religions, generational rituals acknowledge movement from one life stage to another: births, first communions, bar/bat mitzvahs, marriage, etc. These celebrations, both spiritual and social, are designed to emotionally transition individuals from one state or condition to the next. Ceremonies bring structured witness to major life events. Without ceremony or celebration, there is no formal acknowledgment of what was, what is, and what might be.

In just a few days, my oldest daughter, Jenna, will be married -- a major life transition. There will be a ceremony and we will celebrate what is and will be. But first, I would like to look back at what was. It's hard to pick just a few things, or even the most important lessons. However, at the risk of being a bit sentimental as I walk Jenna down the aisle, here are five important things I learned by being her father. I try to keep these in mind as a parent and in my role as a leader and project manager.

Every child is different, every child is the same

My two daughters couldn't be more different. One blonde, one brunette. One quiet and pensive, the other loud and energetic. The theatre vs. Jimmy Buffett. But underneath their unique exteriors, they have the same needs, wants, and desires as everyone else, including me. We all need to belong, to be acknowledged, and to make a contribution. How we do that will vary, but the underlying motivation is the same.

Learning to recognize and tap into their drivers in such a way that their passions are fulfilled means seeing more of that commonality even if we are celebrating the differences. When they were young, it was common for teachers, coaches, and relatives to compare them, noting their differences, and the girls enjoyed highlighting their own differences too.

As a parent, drawing the line between the safety of consistency and the surprise of diversity was not always easy. Punishment or praise may have been tailored to the differences, but hopefully the underlying intent spoke to their similarities.

Kids see more than they hear: Transparency teaches integrity

I don't know what it is like to be famous, to live in a social fishbowl followed by the paparazzi, and I'm not sure I want to find out. Living around the ever-watchful eyes and impressionable minds of children was challenging enough for me. Hardly anything went unnoticed, and random comments were repeated at the most inappropriate time. ("Daddy, I thought you said you didn't like Mr. Smith." Oops!)

We can talk all we want about how they should behave, what they should or should not do, but what they hear is what they see. They can't see your intent. Little things like picking up litter, driving habits, please and thank you, are just as important as study habits, eating and exercise, or showing respect to others. Some disciplines start out as unconscious habits imprinted in formative minds through continual observation.

Our children are not us, but they are a reflection of us: little human mirrors.

I'm not always right, and that's OK: Doing right always trumps being right

It's OK for them to see I'm human with all my weaknesses and frailties. It's hard to keep up the fa├žade that I know everything. (Thank you, Trivial Pursuit.) When the girls were young and inexperienced, my perspective was definitely better than theirs. But as they grew, their ideas and thoughts also grew in relevance and value. Now, their perspective may be even better than mine as I grow old and locked in the experience patterns that have worked for me in my world.

It is one of the true joys of parenting to reach the point where a conversation with your child is a discussion of peers and not a pontification of position. Somewhere in the last decade I learned to control my ego, at least relative to parenting. And I think it has been a good thing. Or maybe they have just helped me realize how often I am not right. Either way, this has been a great lesson for me when working with my teammates.

You can't give too much sincere praise, encouragement, and love

I'm not a big fan of heaping on superfluous accolades in order to build self-confidence. I think it builds a misplaced sense of reality and creates high maintenance adults. I'm from Minnesota, but not from Lake Wobegon (Garrison Keiller's mythical town where "all the children are above average"). Still, there are more than enough opportunities to sincerely praise people for what they do and who they are, if we look for it. My daughters' trophy shelves are endless. It doesn't make sense to be stingy with sincere praise.

Equally important is the encouragement to try something different, to venture out and take risks without fear of failure. I earned broken bones and scars (physical and emotional) from my boyhood adventures outside my comfort zone, but I was comfortable doing that because of the support system of encouragement and love I knew was there for me.

Talking about love may be a bit too squishy for the work environment, so call it something else, like trust. But either way, don't hold back. The price is miniscule and the return to both the giver and recipient is tremendous. Praise, encourage, and love.

My job is to work myself out of a job, after all it is their life not mine

I'll be a Dad for the rest of my life, but I don't intend to have to work at it all my life. I can't tell you the number of times I wanted to live my daughters' lives for them, protect them from their inexperience, make their choices for them, steer them away from harm. But I also know that when I was growing up, I didn't tolerate that from my teachers, coaches, or parents.

I failed more times that you would think reasonable, and every time someone was there to pick me up and watch me walk right back into it again. I was both stubborn and a slow learner. I don't want to be a passive spectator in my daughters' lives, but I also don't want to run their lives. I just want them to know I will always be there for them, no matter what.

Stay awake, it all goes too quickly

In preparation for a slide show during the Father/Daughter dance, I scanned dozens of pictures of Jenna from when she was a baby through a young girl. It may sound trite, but it seems like only yesterday.

We all have numerous distractions in our lives -- things that seem important at the time. But, in retrospect, there has been nothing that has mattered more in my life than being a parent. I've learned a ton, and my role may be changing, but I'm sincerely glad I'm still a dad.

Let the celebration begin

So much for the retrospective. Now it's time for the celebration. Tonight, I will dance with the most beautiful bride, and she with the proudest father. Cheers!

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

Nice piece Uncle Geof, brought a tear to my eye..and that ain't easy..see you at the wedding...

This is such a well written piece, Geof...We all think that we are so different based on our cultures, upbringing, work life, etc...But, when I read your article, it occurred to me that at the end of the day - Parents are mostly the same and mostly share the same concerns, quandaries in life..Thank you for sharing...

My best wishes on your daughter's wedding....I hope to be able to write up an article half as good as yours one day when my kids are getting ready to take the next big step...

Dear Geof,
It's a splendid piece that you shared us and it reminded me of a closing /graduation ceremony that I attended at the prestigious Oxford University-UK where I was the only student to attend the course outside of the EU countries and the closing ceremony was called an Ethiopian Night as I was from Ethiopia and in the honors list......

I can't tell how pleasing it was for me and the moral boost that it gave me for the way forward.....

You are a lucky person to reach this wedding day and hope a lot could be learned for the time to come...


It's a really good piece and I had a tear in my eye!!!!! you are so right....time goes so fast. I have no doubt about it : you are a great dad!!! Have fun at the wedding, I'm sure Jenna will be a beauty.I'll think of you on that special day!!!

Geof....I do believe this is one of your better writings. Have copied all of your past articles to be used for ideas at times and for direction at other times...
First, because I do have a great deal of respect as a mentor, even if we have not always agreed on certain issues and on some challenges faced by the club....
Second, you actually showed emotion and some inner most feelings, not always easy for you!!
Very nice writing, Sir.

Well done sir. This is a well timed read as my wife and I are expecting our first child in January. It is always nice to hear/read about experienced parents, with all they have gone through over the years, express their love and respect for their children as they begin their own families and look forward to putting their time in as parents.

Thanks for the great read, Geof.

Another wonderful piece! It is positively inspiring, educational and emotional all at once.

Thanks so much for all of your many insights, reminders and parallels that you've provided me (and so many others) for many years now. Keep up the great work!


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