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The Project Manager’s Most Important Quality

After two decades plus in industry and holding titles from salesperson to Veep and all points in between, I’ve been in charge of a project or 20. Yup, I’ve organized crews on the back of a diner placemat and produced MS Project Gannt charts as big as a middle-school blackboard just like you may have.  I have come to realize that there are many characteristics to getting stuff done and done right, on time and on budget, yet there is really only one that will keep you sane in the process.

For example, great leaders of projects need, among other things…

  • Organizational skills
  • Drive, motivation
  • People skills
  • Authority
  • Communication skills
  • Persuasion

Yet the greatest skill of all, the one that enables you to fight another day and be responsible for greater and larger budgets at your business…


My Mellowing Phase

Over the years I have calmed down a great deal.  In my youth (I won’t tell you how old I am but Jimmy Connors was atop the tennis world and Tiger Woods was a place in India) I have launched tennis rackets into walls, golf clubs propelled skyward toward trees, and blown up and verbally bullied more than one canine while potty training.

Yet I’m aging gracefully like fine wine.

For instance, I am that rare mix of sports fan that is a fan of the Orioles of Baltimore and Buffalo Bills.  There are 3 of us nationally and we can conference call on a Nintendo DS.  If you follow baseball and football, you know that those teams have been horrible for a couple of decades now.  Cubs fans, I know, no need to one-up me on this one.  Yet despite their collective futility, I remain a fan, follow their progress and go to games, and just enjoy being there, not expecting anything but mediocrity and “we just try harder” effort from my teams.

Oh, I’m not perfect.  Our two dogs still push me over the edge with the occasional accident and their absolute refusal to learn the English language, laughing at me as I explain WHY you don’t do that.

The Website Project

I’m responsible for the business development of a highly regarded IT Consulting firm in the mid-Atlantic.  Because the CEO thought I knew something of marketing, social media and the like, he put me in charge of the re-launch of the company website.  This was way cool, but I relapsed on the patience element.  I just couldn’t understand why everyone in the company would not just drop everything at my request and create content, graphics design, online forms and more.  What the heck was wrong with everybody else?  All they were doing was billing hours and helping clients.  After watching the tech group bend over backwards to work magic for customers, always on time and under budget, that’s when I realized it was a question of priorities.  It reminded me of an old sign, perhaps you’ve seen it.

emergency, crisis management

The site went live and is receiving rave reviews.  It just took me a while to realize that in today’s workplace, we’re all wearing many hats, and my project was well, just one of them on the priority scale.

Boo on me.

The House Remodel

So as I write this piece, I am sitting in my kitchen nook in the first floor of my house, surrounded by a full wrap around desk and listening to Nickelodeon and HGTV as my son and wife battle over the remote one open-floor-plan room away.


Because we used some water damage on the back side of our house as an excuse to do some major remodeling, including gutting my office and rebuilding it.  This has been going on since February (it’s now May).  We’re still about a month away.  Spackle dust has out-dueled spring pollen for position on all hardwood furniture, CRTs and lampshades.  I have sat and watched days with a lot of sub-contractor activity, with the framers and electricians bumping up and down the stairs, to weeks with nary any action.

And I’ve been pretty good about it.  My general contractor Marty doesn’t do things the way I would, perhaps, but the reason I pay him is that he has to deal with half a dozen sub-contractors, their demands of payment before the weekend, calling in sick when they were scheduled to work, and better projects across the bay in Ocean City, or at least ones with squeakier wheel foremen demanding attention.

Oh, I still don’t get why this thing is running like a well-oiled machine of falling dominoes of activity, but I am more understanding of the nature of things.  Patience has washed over me, as I realize that even though we’ve lived a quarter on the calendar in half a house, tripping over stacks of stuff hourly, others have it a lot worse in the world.  Calming perspective.

Your Work Projects

So that brings me to you.  Reader, avid learner, business person, entrepreneur, project manager.  When you’ve got a project at work, you may have…you will have frustrations. Despite all of your experience, course work, or PMP designations, you’re going to find that others don’t always do it like you, won’t have your priorities, and frankly may disappoint with their performance on the project that you know will save the company and spawn a life-size statue of you in the company waiting room, or at the very least a portrait.

Remember, patience is a virtue, my friend.  It will help you to keep things moving, still be successful, and keep you and everyone else from going nuts.

Of course a sense of humor is your number 2 character trait, and a little schadenfreude goes a long way to help relieve the tension every now and again.  This morning my general contractor showed up to work at my house and neither I nor my family was there.  The burglar alarm went off, the cops were summoned, and my two poor dogs in a fit of hyper despondence kicked down the door of their roommate crate and chased him into the unfinished bathroom.

Good dogs. :-)

When your project is a trade show, it helps to select great partners like Apex exhibition and trade show stands.

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One Comment

  1. Cynthia J Stewart May 3, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    You describe life so perfectly. I can SO relate. I remember coming to the realization that getting stressed about things really didn’t help anything. It was when I was living in airports and dealing with significant and repeated delays in the three years post 9-1-1. I began to understand the phrase perfectly “This too shall pass.” We can spend our lives wanting things to be different, and look what fun we miss.

Reply to Cynthia J Stewart