Project Practitioners > Invisible Scripts for Project Managers

Invisible Scripts for Project Managers

By Chris Cook, PMP

You have a little voice in your head that's getting in your way, even if you don't always hear it. You might call it your inner monologue. An article on Huffington Post last year called it an invisible script, "an assumption that is so baked into how you view the world and your choices that you don’t even question it. It often involves an inner voice telling you what you should do, need to do, or can’t do." These invisible scripts are commonly attached to inaction and ways we hold ourselves back.

 “I can’t go back to graduate school because learning is more difficult the older I get.”

“I don’t have any money, so I can’t go to college.”

“I should follow my passions.”

These are a few invisible scripts that influence our behaviors. Your self-doubt makes learning harder. Scholarships, loans, and grants are some ways to go to school without having money. Passions can lead to activity without accomplishment. Find purpose over passion.

Invisible Scripts for Project Managers

        Being analytical means you are not creative.

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.” -  Marcus Aurelius

Being analytical lends itself to a person sitting behind a computer looking at quantitative and qualitative information trying to recognize patterns. Being creative speaks to childlike tendencies. Goofy, silly, and wing it are styles of creatives while analytical people are serious.

This portrayal could not be further from the truth. What if I told you the most creative people are analytical?

Jim Link, the author of Idea-Links: The New Creativity, argues that very point. Instead of focusing on the Eureka moments of creativity, he says it is a building process. Link’s model for creativity is Notice -> Analyze -> Store -> Re-apply. His path to creativity screams analytical.

Notice refers to observation. Look around.

Analyze gets you noticing trends. It becomes the link between looking and connecting.

Store means to put the ideas somewhere. Create a folder or drawer where the potential “Eurekas” can be referenced.

Finally, re-apply lets you take from other industries and professions to re-apply those techniques and ideas to your own. Find business models that work elsewhere and see if they will work for you.

        I’m an accidental project manager.

“Focus on what is said when you speak and on what results from each action. Know what the one aims at, and what the other means.” – Marcus Aurelius

Accidental project managers find themselves in a role they do not have training or experience for. Normally, they are promoted for being the best technical employees on their teams. Having no experience or training leads to doubt (invisible script).

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor from 161 to 180, has some introspective advice. This insight will give you things to look for in your new role.

How are you delivering your message? Is it being translated correctly by your team? What are actions being taken after your message is delivered? All of these questions can help you become a better project manager. Trial by fire can be one of the most effective ways to learn.

Leading into my next point…

        Failing isn’t everything.

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” – Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi, the former Hall of Fame coach of the Green Bay Packers, famously said these words. His football teams would win six National Football League (NFL) championships and two Super Bowls. The man knew how to win.

While Lombardi may have never had a losing record as an NFL coach, failing was part of his success. Those 35 losses on his resume helped build the winning culture.

Not only is failing important, but also learning to fail is as important.

“It’s unfortunate that this has happened. No. It’s fortunate that this has happened and I’ve remained unharmed by it – not shattered by the present or frightened of the future,” wrote Marcus Aurelius.

When Marcus Aurelius failed, lives were lost, families ruined, and relationships severed. It was life and death. For many, failures do not result in the loss of lives. Maybe a contract was not awarded, or a shipment came late. Neither failure will result in the same kind of catastrophe.

Failing is learning. Winning is easy. If we win, we must have done everything right. Otherwise, we would have lost. Losing makes us aware of our faults and spotlights where we can improve.


Invisible scripts are dangerous because of their invisibility. The way we were raised, the culture of the organization we work for, and the people we associate with most all have influences on our behavior.

Some people have invisible scripts that they can accomplish anything, no matter the obstacles or stresses involved. Most have invisible scripts that stop them from achieving. They lack the belief it takes. “Because I am not this…or that…then I can’t…”

These mindsets threaten our ability to grow, both personally and professionally. Be analytical of yourself to discover what is holding you back. Instead of making a product or organization better, use Link’s New Creativity to make yourself better. Once the invisible scripts have been identified and removed, the sky is the limit.

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