Project Practitioners > You Are Not Broken

You Are Not Broken

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


Too many times, project managers get consumed by issues and problems. An owner is requesting an update on a task. Because this task is not a priority, it slipped through the cracks. The owner is not happy. A crew member brings up that the material ordered is not the right type. You have to resubmit the order and try to get reimbursed for the other material.

These things start to pile up, and internal questions arise. Am I cut out for this job? Is this too much responsibility? Thoughts of going back to your old position with less responsibility start to flood your brain. You are valuing every opinion and issue too greatly.

Instead of things happening within the project, you take them as happening to you. Mistakes are made all of the time. They are not necessarily a reflection of your ability. A toilet leaks out of the bottom. A technician recaulks it. Weeks later, the tenant states it is leaking again. Sure, the first repair may not have been the most permanent, but also, the owner wants to save money, so quick fixes are pressured.

The technician has decades of experience to fall back on, and this one instance of an issue continuing after service is not indicative of his or her performance. It is a mere blip on the radar — a data point on the continuum of professional experiences.

All of the tools you need to survive are within you.



Resolve is your firm determination to do something. This feeling is ever present. You are struggling because you care. If you did not, whatever happens, happens. You would not stress about the delivery of products or quality. It would just be.

Your resolve gets you through those days where everything is on fire, and all you have is a squirt bottle to put it out. You are hung out to dry at every issue. All communication points back to you, and it is your responsibility. It is just one of those days, weeks, months, and so on.

If you have the resolve, those days become distant memories as the next day you are right back on the horse getting things done. You signed on to lead this project and will not see it any other way. You are there to the bitter end.



Your focus is on the wants and needs of the people affected by the project. You are the facilitator in which tasks and resources flow through for the benefit of others. Being a project manager is a thankless job similar to a referee in sports. If you are doing your job, you fade into the background. If you fail, you are recognized as the scapegoat.

Project management is people management. Learn technical skills, master soft skills. The needs and wants of your team matter more than the deadline for the project. If people want to work for you, they will jump over tall mountains to complete a task. If they think you have bad intentions, they barely get out of bed for your phone call.

Sending someone an hour and a half away to stretch a carpet at 8 pm is not a small order. However, because the contractor trusts me and knows if it does not get done, it is my ass on the line, he and a crew member did just that. Drove all that way for a  simple job that should have been scheduled a week earlier with no rush.



This trait plays a large role in problem-solving. While thematic problems exist throughout projects, their solutions vary. The same water heater could result in three separate visits. Relight the pilot light. Diagnose airflow issues. Permanently resolve the issue.

Creativity shortens those visits and lessens the amount as well. It just needs to be brought out. What helps is knowing you can test those boundaries. If you make a mistake, oh well, go back and fix it. Not every task or project has to be a home run. Even the best hitters in baseball strikeout, and often nowadays.

Budgets are always tight. Repurposing material is the easiest way to save money. Focus on saving rather than making. Like Ben Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Be creative in both aspects. How can you make more money while saving more money? This double dipping leads to grand slams.



After a while, you just know. You see it on their faces or in their effort. Experience leads to intuition. You walk out of a meeting knowing it went well and you can add that project to the schedule. Some, all the right things are said, but you know it just will not work out.

Some contractors are good enough to walk tenants through an issue over the phone, saving the owner money and everyone’s time. That ability is priceless. People will have issues with their garage doors, and all it is is the photo eyes not being aligning. A garbage disposal will not work but pressing the reset button solves it.

These intuitive moments pay dividends down the road. You save someone $50 early, and that turns into thousands of continual work in the future.



All of these internal characteristics allow you to break on through to the other side. Situations may seem like the end, or this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. When, in reality, you have all the tools at your immediate disposal to solve it.

Imagine playing baseball from the time you could walk. Your dream was to be a professional ball player. You go to a small college and make the team your freshman year. Come sophomore year, the coach calls you in and tells you you are cut from the team. The one thing you always wanted has been taken from you.

To end the discussion, the coach, who thinks he is giving words of advise that will help you, says, “In the end, does it really matter?” How destructive of a comment at that moment is that? That would shatter your world. You have dedicated your life to this thing, and some dude takes it away and says it does not really matter.

If that does not break you, then nothing will. And if it does, in the end, does it really matter?

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