Great aspirations

Understanding what people seek helps drive everyone in the right direction.


As project managers, how aware are we of others’ aspirational needs—their need for achievement, recognition, appreciation, reward, solitude and respect?

Whether we interpret aspiration as taking in a breath or seeking attainment, are they very different? Are we project managers who provide space or ladders, or suffocation and slippery conditions?

Being a project manager requires a certain measure of healthcare—for the project and all the stakeholders directly involved. The outset of the project is a challenging time of gaining trust and seeking honesty from stakeholders. Withholding information can be seen as deceitful; giving too much information can be seen as overkill. So how do we, as project managers, respond to such a demanding variety of people?

We can approach this problem in six steps:

  • ▪ Understand our own aspirations
  • ▪ Accept that these will change over time
  • ▪ Acknowledge that we don’t have to agree with the aspirations of others—we simply need to accept that they exist and are valued by each individual
  • ▪ Seek understanding of others; encourage trust and openness
  • ▪ Listen carefully to hear what is expressed, rather than what you interpret
  • ▪ Act with integrity to ensure that these aspirations are actively managed

We also need to give consideration to how we articulate or express our aspirations to those we report to and work with. It is proven that everyone works better when his or her aspirations are being attended to. For one person, this may be a verbal thank-you; for another, a financial reward. When we capture these clearly for ourselves, we can then create understanding through communicating with others. This, in turn, gives individuals permission to speak more openly of their needs.

Whether we address these aspirations formally, informally or both, they require active consideration and response. Something as simple as the use of an agreed-upon nickname can encourage participation, a sense of belonging and team perspective.

For people who are achievement-oriented, projects need to convey tasks in sufficient size as to be recognized as something worth completion, yet they must be compact enough to create a flow of achievement through task completion.

There are also colleagues for whom the gift of time is the aspiration. They want to be able to confine work tasks to specific times so they can fulfill their roles outside of the project. Recognizing and supporting these aspirations, where practical, can enhance and deepen trust and respect.

Ultimately, the project context will be the main driver for the flexibility around accommodating aspirations. The project manager who can consciously reflect upon, negotiate and address some of these aspirations will achieve constructive relationships with his or her colleagues. This, in turn, resonates with organizational ethics and values, and can then influence future behaviors of all involved. PM


Sheilina Somani, FAPM, RPP, PMP, is the owner of the U.K.-based consultancy Positively Project Management, a senior project manager, a speaker and a mentor.




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