Project Practitioners > Do you know if people like you as a project manager?

Do you know if people like you as a project manager?

By Alfonso Bucero

Are you a positive or a negative project manager? Do you believe that you have some room for improving your attitude managing projects? Do you need to grow professionally and personally?

I am sure you want to grow as a project professional, so you need to invest in your professional development, and I really learned that one of the key points for your professional development success is to associate with positive people. I met some negative project management colleagues during my life and the outcome of my relationship with them was “frustration and demotivation”. On the other hand I had some positive allies in my professional life that made the difference. For instance my best friend and better professional, author of five books, PM, Executive Consultant, Seminar Leader and great speaker Randall L. Englund, that taught me the principle of courage and always supported me along my career.

When I worked for a multinational company as a project manager, I started up a PMO. The professional services organization was not very convinced about the urgency of creating a PMO, so I looked for some allies. Most project management colleagues criticize the lack of support from executives, but they never proposed any action to be done. One of them thought like me, he said,”Something can be done in terms of our behavior in front of our executives.” This colleague became my first ally in the PMO implementation project effort.

Negative people are the ones who always dwell on the negative. Their sentences are contagious; they continually spew their verbal poison. In contrast, positive people promote the personal and professional growth; they are very supportive. Positive people lift your spirits and are a gift for all of us.

Negative people always try to drag you down to their level. They hammer away at you with all the things you cannot do and all the things that are impossible. After listening to negative people, you feel listless and drained. I identify some people as “dream killers”. I could say that they are “energy vampires” because they suck all the positive energy out of you. Have you ever been with a negative person, and felt as if that individual were physically talking energy from you? I think we have all had that experience many times. One thing is certain: spend time with negative people and their negative messages will wear you down.

On the other hand, how do you feel when you are around people who are positive, enthusiastic and supportive? You are energized and inspired. There is something truly amazing about positive people. They seem to have a positive energy that lights up a room. When you are around them, you start to pick up their attitude and you feel as if you have added strength to vigorously pursue your own goals. It is like I feel every time that attend a PM Congress, my batteries are full charged, that's great.

So if you will make sure to fill our mind with positive messages, you are going to be more positive and move forward boldly to achieve your goals. The more positive reinforcement is the better. And where can you get this positive reinforcement? Well, one way is to read motivational books. You can listen to motivational tapes, and spend lots of time with positive people.

My best practice is to assess your friendships and professional colleagues from time to time, even those you have maintained for many years. Trust me; it is not a minor issue. Those who occupy your time have a significant impact on your most priceless possession, your mind. Are you surrounding yourself with negative friends and colleagues and spending a lot of time with them in your leisure hours? If so, I am going to ask you to think about spending much less time with these people, or even no time at all with them.

I am suggesting that you limit or eliminate your involvement with some long-standing friends. You can think I am cold or uncaring. You can also think that we should try to help our negative friends and colleagues instead of dumping them. Nevertheless, I have found that in most cases, hanging around these negative friends or colleagues does not help them, and it does not help you, either. Everyone gets dragged down because most negative people don’t want to change. They just want someone to listen to their tales of woe. If you have a strong urge to spend time with negative people, ask yourself: “Why am I choosing to be with these people?” Consciously or unconsciously, you may be choosing to hold yourself back, to be less than you are capable of becoming.

By the way, I think it is wonderful to try helping someone overcome their negativity. But if you have been trying for several years, and are not getting anywhere, maybe it is time to move on.  Let me clarify one important thing. I am not making a judgment here that negative people are any less worthy than other people. I am saying there are consequences if you spend time with people who are negative. What are the consequences? You will be less happy and less successful than you could be.

One of the things that worked well for me in the projects I managed was when discussion moves to a negative subject, I resist the temptation to accuse the other person of being negative. That will usually make things even worse. Instead, gently shift the conversation to a more positive topic. Remember that I am not asking you to disown your relatives or refuse to attend family functions. This is about limiting your contacts with negative relatives so you do not get dragged down to their level.

As you increase your associations with positive people, you will feel better about yourself and have renewed energy to achieve your goals. You will become a more positive, upbeat person, the kind of person others love to be around. I used to think it was important to associate with positive people and to limit involvement with negative people. Now, I believe it is essential if you want to be a high achiever and a happy individual. So, surround yourself with positive people. They will lift you up the ladder of success.

My best practices are as follows:

  • Negative people are the ones who always dwell on the negative. Their sentences are contagious, they continuallly spew their verbal poison. 
  • Positive people lift your spirits and are a gift for all of us.
  • It is essential that you assess your friendships and professional colleagues from time to time
  • Positive people are welcomed in any organization, and negative people are hurting their chances for advancement.

Alfonso Bucero, MSc, PMP,PMI-RMP, PMI Fellow is an independent consultant who manages projects throughout Europe and Asia. He is the author of Project Management—A New Vision, coauthor with Randall L. Englund of Project Sponsorship: Achieving Management Commitment for Project Success, contributor to Creating the Project Office, contributor to the book CIRCA 2025, author of  “Today is a Good Day – Attitudes for Achieving Project Success” and coauthor with Randall L. Englund of "The Complete Project Manager" and "The Complete Project Manager Toolkit".

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

Alfonso, I agree on many of the points above. I think part of our jobs as PM's is to be the cheerleader and coach for the team, and I don't think you can do that successfully if you are impersonating a black cloud. Our job is to show the team the goal, and to build them up to understand that they can reach it. Although, your comment about "I am not asking you to disown your relatives or refuse to attend family functions" gave me pause, as I WOULD LOVE TO DO THAT for some family members, as those are the hardest "negative" relationships to avoid! Great insight!

Alfonso, thanks for the excellent advice. I liked many things you said, but wanted to highlight your practice of shifting conversations from negative to positive. A few years ago, it struck me that we all get into "dances" with other people, interactions in which we influence each other. When I don't like the dance, it's up to me to change the way I'm dancing. That way it is more likely that things will move in a better direction. You are spot on to say that when I become a more upbeat person, I will attract that in others. Thanks for your positive message... Mike

If you ever have the opportunity, spend time with Alfonso Bucero! He is definitely a positive person, full of passion, and fun to be with. His stories and attitude are uplifting and relevant to all that we do as project managers and citizens of the world.

Gracias Alfonso!
After reading your post examples of conversations came to mind and I can see where my energy was being sucked by the negative person. Somewhere I read today that we are not only PMs (project managers) but also People Managers...


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