Today is a good day--the project manager's attitude

Managing Partner, BUCERO PM Consulting

Abstract

Early in my career, I had a negative attitude regarding my job and towards the projects I managed. That negative disposition generated more problems than advantages. I created a negative image of myself in front of my colleagues, team members, and managers. The result was not good. I transmitted negativism to my managers and team members. Maturation caused me to change my thinking. I needed an attitude check! By changing my attitude, I changed my world. This paper explains my project management experience during my professional career from the attitude point of view. People's reactions are different depending on background, culture, and environment, but a positive attitude gives you added value as a project leader. Do not forget that your team members see you as their point of reference.

Introduction

The dictionary (dictionary.com, 2009)defines attitude as a position of the body or manner of carrying oneself, a state of mind or a feeling; disposition, an arrogant or hostile state of mind or disposition. Attitude is the preference of an individual or organization towards or away from things, events, or people. It is the spirit and perspective from which an individual, group, or organization approaches community development. Your attitude shapes all your decisions and actions. Attitude is very difficult to define with precision as it consists of qualities and beliefs that are nontangible. For instance, an important project team attitude is confidence. The development of a project presents tremendous challenges to a project team. Sometimes it can even feel like an act of faith. An enormous amount of detail is collected, analyzed, organized, and assimilated into a functional “whole.” On very large efforts, only a few key individuals may possess the total “big picture,” and this may be at varying levels of completeness.

Attitudes are a secret power working 24 hours a day, for better or worse. Attitude is a brain filter through which you experience the world. Some project managers see the world through the mind of optimism while others see life through a mind of pessimism. Obviously, I found some people in the middle—not very optimistic but also not very pessimistic. Your attitude is your window to project success. We all start out in life with a good attitude. Just watch our children. They are always laughing and giggling. They have a positive disposition, and they love to explore new things. Do you have a positive attitude in front of your team members and rest of project stakeholders?

How to Attract Project Success

We become what we think about. I believe that our thoughts determine our actions. The project manager must believe in the project from the beginning to the end. If the project manager does not believe in the project, he or she will not be able to convince the team members to believe in the project. The idea that we become what we think about has also been expressed as the law of dominant thought. This means that there is a power within each of us that propels us in the direction of our current dominant thoughts. The key word here is dominant. We have an internal power within each of us that propels us in the direction of our current thoughts. A little positive thinking does not produce positive results. You need to practice it and be disciplined about thinking positively every day until it becomes a habit.

We must adjust our attitude to each particular project. Let me share a personal example to demonstrate the power of our thoughts. During 1992, when I was a project manager at HP Spain, I presented my first paper in English at an HP project management conference in the United States. I was not fluent in English at that time; however, I was passionate about writing and submitting a paper in English. My dream was to be able to deliver a presentation in English on my professional subject. I wrote a case study about the customer project I was managing that time in Madrid, Spain. I worked on my first English presentation for many weeks, and some weeks later, I went to San Jose, California, where I presented my paper to a worldwide HP audience. I was very nervous at the beginning of my presentation because of my level of spoken English. However, I was getting better through my presentation.

Why? Because I believed in that project and I had lived that experience with my team. In that moment, my English level was not important. The most important thing was my passion for telling my story to the audience. That presentation changed my behavior. Since then I have been presenting papers to international congresses and symposiums and telling and sharing my experiences to different audiences every year. As a result, I have forced myself to write and speak better and better in English. However, thoughts and ideas precede actions and when our thoughts are positive, immediately some actions come to mind. My experience is that when I have a positive attitude, I feel compelled to take action and nothing can stop me. It does not matter if I make some mistakes because I know I will be able to amend it. I believe that is why a positive belief system is the starting point for the achievement of any goal. When your thoughts are that you can achieve your goal, you begin taking the necessary actions to move forward.

Change Your Thinking

What do you think about yourself every day? Do you have positive or negative thoughts? Each of us has an internal voice. Many times what we say is negative, critical, and self-limiting. We create our own obstacles, nobody else does it. Perhaps you find yourself thinking “I cannot do this” or “I always mess things up.” These thoughts work against you. Instead, repeat to yourself that you can and will accomplish your goal, your project, or your activity. Many times, we are not taking into account the words we use in a regular basis. We continually use negative ideas to express ourselves.

The steps to positive thinking

Exhibit 1: The steps to positive thinking

Positive thinking is a process that takes time and patience (Exhibit 1); it is not an overnight success. Positive project thinking requires effort, commitment, and patience. On the other hand, positive thinking does not mean that you are problem free. You will have a lot of setbacks along the way. However, if you continue to believe in yourself and are persistent, you can overcome those obstacles. Believe me; you are moving constantly in the direction of your dominant thoughts.

Make Your Plan for Success

Since the age of 26, I dreamed of being a project manager. I started to work in the information technology field as a programmer, then as an analyst, and then as a project leader, leaving and joining several organizations in the process. I worked hard to earn my actual position. Now I have my own firm and work on my passion—project management. I believe you must dream before achieving things because when you dream, unconsciously you generate synergy for the steps to follow that achieve your objectives. Not all mental pictures can be traced to your past. You are constantly generating mental movies and/or pictures based on your relationships, project experiences, and other events. No matter the source of your mental images, there is one point that I want to drive home: you, and only you, are in control of your own movies.

It does not serve you to deny what happened in a past experience, no matter how painful or disappointing. You cannot, for instance, change the fact that you were criticized by the manager. You can, however, alter your interpretation of the event. When I told my story about being criticized by my manager in front of my team, my perception was very negative. However, I finally understood it some years later. At the time of an original criticism, the meaning assigned to the experience is often “I am not good enough” or “my opinions are worthless.” While this may be the interpretation of an inexperienced professional, the thought inadvertently gets carried into your life as a project manager. Today, though, you can consciously choose to view the situation differently.

We can create new mental pictures whenever we choose. In addition, when we develop (and concentrate on) new images that evoke powerful feelings and sensations, we will act in ways that support those new pictures. Therefore, the first step is to create an image of your desired outcome. You are limited only by your imagination. Some project managers are terrified about public speaking. In survey after survey, it is listed as the first fear that people have in organizations. So, when most people are asked to even consider making a speech, what kinds of pictures do they run through their minds? They see themselves standing nervously in front of the audience. Perhaps they have trouble remembering what they want to say. Run these images over and over in your mind and you can be sure that you will not have much success as a speaker. You as a project manager or as an executive are involved in selling any product or service. It is vital that you see yourself as succeeding on a consistent basis. If you are not getting the results you want, there is no question that you are holding onto pictures of sales mediocrity, or sales disappointment as opposed to sales success. Right now, think about your next meeting with a potential customer. In your mind, how do you see the encounter? Are you confident and persuasive? Are you enthusiastically explaining the benefits of what you are offering? Is the prospect receptive and interested in what you are saying? Can you vividly see a successful outcome to your meeting?

Make a Commitment

Courage, also known as bravery, will, intrepidity, and fortitude, is the ability to confront fear, pain, risk/danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. After inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison was asked where he drew inspiration from, and he said: “I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.” (Beals, 1996, ¶2) The key to getting what you want is the willingness to do whatever it takes to accomplish your objective. Now, before your mind jumps to conclusions, let me clarify that in saying “whatever it takes,” I exclude all actions that are illegal, unethical, or that harm other people. So, exactly what do I mean by this “willingness?” It is a mental attitude that means that if it takes five steps to reach my goal, I will take those five steps, but if it takes 55 steps to reach my goal, I will take those 55 steps, and so on. We usually do not know how many steps will be required to reach our goal. This does not matter. To succeed, all that is necessary is that you make a commitment to do whatever it takes regardless of the number of steps involved.

I have learned a lot about the magic of commitment from my ex-colleague and friend John P. He developed his project management career at a computer manufacturer organization in the United Kingdom. Since a very young age, John liked project management unconsciously. Some years later, he started to work at a multinational computer manufacturer company as a project manager. However, he had a clear project in his mind (retiring in his fifties). Then John's goal was how to save money through hard work doing his preferred work (project management). He managed many projects during his career, and he always tried to take on large challenges. He traveled a lot, and sometimes he felt very tired and exhausted. However, John never quit. He continued and managed his last program as program manager of a year 2000 project for a multinational company. He is now in his sixties and happily retired. He is enjoying himself managing the project of building his new house. Now, let us assume you have a goal in mind. The next question to ask is: Am I willing to do whatever it takes to achieve this goal? If your answer is, I will do just about anything, except that I won't do this and that..., then honestly, you are not committed.

Commitment for Project Success

When I was assigned as a project manager to the General Treasury of Spanish Social Security in Spain, I learned about the power of commitment. Let me share my experience with you.

Background: Hewlett-Packard and the data collection center of the General Treasury of the Spanish Social Security achieved one of the most advanced solutions for electronic document management. By using an image management system, they came up with a solution to digitize, store, and process the Spanish Social Security contribution forms (TC1, and TC2), despite the tremendous volume of documents processed—about two million pages per month. CENDAR, the Data Collection Control Center, is a Spanish public entity within the General Treasury of Social Security. It acts as a control center for information relating to the collection of contributions made by employees and companies as pertaining to social security.

Situation: The General Treasury of Social Security used a manual data entry system to input information regarding social security contributions. Because of the substantial volume of paper generated by this operation, it became necessary to design a system that would allow for electronic storage of the forms for subsequent processing. In July 1991, the criteria for a public tender were published to purchase an information systems solution for the Electronic Data Collection Exchange Center (CENDAR). The proposal was won by HP.

Solution: Good cooperation between the customer and HP in the CENDAR project team made it possible to define the objectives clearly. The teamwork between the customer and the HP team and their commitment were the fundamental reasons for HP being able to meet the client's requirements on time, on cost, and with the expected quality level. Long journeys were needed at the beginning of the project to create a good team. The team members ranged in age from 25 to 30 years old, and they were anxious and ready to learn. The cooperation during the solution design and implementation phases between CENDAR professionals and HP gave the customer a state-of-the-art document management system. This real case showed that total commitment in respect to the client's requirements and prime responsibility for the whole project were the keys to success in the development of the new system. The team I created and managed in this project taught me that together everyone achieves more. During this project, I created a good environment; it was not easy because I had to integrate people coming from different organizations as well as from different cultures and expectations. You can see the main elements I consider for a good team environment in Exhibit 2.

Elements of a good team environment

Exhibit 2: Elements of a good team environment

Convert Your Project Issues into Opportunities

When faced with problems or setbacks in the projects you manage, what is your immediate reaction? If you are like most people, your first impulse is to complain. Why did this have to happen to me? What am I going to do now? My plans are ruined. This response is only natural. However, after the initial disappointment wears off, you have a choice to make. You can either wallow in misery or dwell on the negative aspects of your project situation or you can find the benefit or lesson learned that the problem is offering. Yes, you will probably face a period of uncertainty or struggle, but there is always a flip side to the difficulty. You see, a “problem” is often not a problem at all. It may actually be an opportunity. For instance, a problem may point out an adjustment you can make to improve certain conditions in your project. Without the problem, you never would have taken this positive action.

The road to success often travels through adversity. In January 1990, I was assigned as a project manager for a €10 million customer project with the Spanish General Treasury of Social Security. It was a software development and infrastructure project. Three months after the project started, the division that supported the software product we used closed and fired all their employees without any notice. I felt extremely stressed in front of the customer. There was a high probability that the project would fail. At the same time, one core project team member left the company. This person was a knowledgeable professional about key technical aspects on the project. However, the company supported me and invested money to look for a subcontractor to provide us with an alternate software package. The company empowered and encouraged me to establish relationships with subcontractors. On the one hand, I needed to find another professional with good technical knowledge. It was a great opportunity for me in terms of dealing with people from different organizations, with different cultures and different visions, and negotiating with them. At the same time, I had to interview various candidates to substitute for my core project team member. I learned a lot from that situation, personally and professionally, and one year later, the project finished successfully. The customer was happy using the system and my managers valued my effort and improvement.

Convert Your Project Issues into Opportunities

When was the last time you seriously thought about the words you use each and every day? How carefully do you select them?

Now, you might be thinking, “Alfonso, why all this fuss about words? What's the big deal?” The answer is simple. Many times your words have much more power than what you can imagine. They can build a bright future, destroy opportunity, or help maintain the status quo. Your words reinforce your beliefs, and your beliefs create your reality and contribute to project success. Think of this process as a row of dominos that looks like this: Thoughts – Words – Beliefs – Actions – Results. Here is how it works. For example, Henry has a thought, such as I am not very good when it comes to project sales. Now, let us remember that he does not have this thought only once. Oh, no. He runs it through his mind on a regular basis, maybe hundreds or thousands of times in his life. Then, Henry starts to use words that support this thought. He says to his friends and project management colleagues, “I am never going to do very well in sales” or “I just hate making sales calls or approaching prospects.” Here again, Henry repeats these phrases over and over…in his self-talk and in his discussions with others. This, in turn, strengthens his beliefs. You see, everything that you will achieve in your life flows from your beliefs. So, in the sales example, Henry develops the belief that he is not going to be successful in project sales. This becomes embedded in his subconscious mind.

Do not underestimate the role of your words in this process. Professionals who feed themselves a steady diet of negative words are destined to have a negative attitude. It is a simple matter of cause and effect. You cannot keep repeating negative words and expect to be a high achiever. That is because negative words will always lead to the reinforcement of negative beliefs and eventually to negative outcomes. We usually repeat to ourselves things like, “I am not good delivering presentations,” “I am not good talking to upper managers,” or “I am not very good managing project cost.” And, after many years of using negative words, you develop a strong belief that you cannot do these things. Do you see how you create this situation by not being careful about the words you use? The truth is, you could eventually reverse this trend if you start using positive words about your ability to make repairs. This behavior depends on the motivational values from every professional.

Have you thought about the words you use in your personal and professional life? When we repeat certain phrases over and over, it is as if a “groove” is formed in our brain. We keep replaying the same old refrain in our heads like a broken record. The trouble is, whenever you say these words you just deepen the groove, replaying the same old myths in your mind, strengthening the same old beliefs, and getting the same old results. Recognize, however, that just because you have said things in the past there is no reason to continue doing so. While it takes some discipline and vigilance on your part to make changes in your language, it is well worth the effort.

How Are You?

Our answer to the question “How are you?” seems like such a small thing. However, we must answer that question many times every day. Then, it is not a small thing at all. It is a significant part of our daily conversations. When someone asks: How are you? What do you say? Your answer is usually no more than a few words. Yet, that short response tells a lot about you and your attitude. Well, you have had a chance to review some typical response in each category—negative, mediocre, and positive. Which of these phrases do you use most often? Which responses do your friends and family use?

If you find yourself in the negative or mediocre group, I suggest you immediately consider revising your response and joining the ranks of the positive. Here is why. When someone asks you how you are and you say horrible or not too bad, your physiology is adversely affected. You tend to slump your shoulders and head and take on a depressed posture. What about your emotions? After stating that you are lousy, do you feel better? Of course not. You feel even more down in the dumps because negative words and thoughts generate negative feelings, and eventually, negative results. It is up to you to break the cycle. Whenever I make a presentation or attend a seminar, I say “Today is a good day.” Many people are surprised at the beginning. Sometimes, at the end of the event some people came to me and ask, What if today is not a good day?

I do not want to lie to my customers and colleagues by telling them everything is wonderful when it is not. Now don't get me wrong, I put the highest value on integrity and telling the truth. Yet, I do not think this is a matter of telling the truth. Try this experiment. When someone asks How are you?, respond with energy and enthusiasm that you are great or today is a good day! Say it with a smile and a sparkle in your eye. It does not matter whether you feel completely terrific at that moment. Simply apply the act-as-if principle. In other words, if you want to be more positive, act-as-if you already are and, pretty soon, you will find that you have, in fact, become more positive

Don't Complain About Your Projects

My father said that a pessimistic person is an optimistic one well-informed. How do you feel when someone unloads all of his problems and complaints on you? Not very happy or energizing is it? The truth is nobody likes to be around a complainer—except, perhaps, other complainers. One of the most common areas of complaint is the subject of illness. In this category are comments such as “My back is killing me” or “I have a terrible headache.” Worse yet, some people get very graphic in explaining the gory details of their particular ailment. What can I do for you if you have a stomachache? I am not a physician; you must go to the doctor if you have a medical problem. More importantly, why are you telling me this? You might want sympathy, but all you are doing is dragging me down and reinforcing your own suffering. Talking about pain and discomfort will only bring you more of the same and encourage those around you to look for the exits. I am not suggesting that you just sit back and ignore all of the problems in your life or in your projects. However, rather than complaining, it is far better to focus your attention and your energy on those steps you can take to solve, or at least lessen, your problem.

First, no one wants to hear negative news about your illness and your problems. Second, complaining reinforces your own pain and discomfort. So why keep replaying painful, negative memories? Third, complaining, by itself, accomplishes nothing and diverts you from the constructive actions you could be taking to improve your situation.

You can actually learn to embrace the negative thoughts running through your head and thereby transcend them. Allow them to be, but do not identify with them because those thoughts are not you. Begin to interact with them like an observer. It has been said that the mind is like a hyperactive monkey. The more you fight with the monkey, the more hyper it becomes. So instead, just relax and observe the monkey until it wears itself out of your consciousness. You must assume total responsibility. You must say to the universe (and mean it), “I want to accept more responsibility for everything in my experience.” Some examples of accepting responsibility are shown in Exhibit 3.

How to accept responsibility

Exhibit 3: How to accept responsibility

Associate with Positive Professionals

I believe that human beings are like sponges: we “soak up” whatever people around us are saying. So, if you spend time with someone who is negative, you sponge up the negatives and it affects your attitude. Of course, the reverse is also true. When you hang around positive people, you soak up the positive. You feel better and perform better. Therefore, you must join positive people. Do you work with positive people?

Every organization and every project has some negative people working there, and sometimes you have to interact and work alongside these people. But do not go out of your way to spend time with these prophets of gloom and doom. For example, if you frequently have lunch with negative people at work, stop having lunch with them. All they are doing is filling your mind with negativity. You cannot perform at your best if you allow these people to dump their negative garbage into your mind. There is no need to be nasty or to tell them off. You should be able to find a diplomatic way of distancing yourself from this “poisonous” group. 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.

Grow Through Your Fears

I define myself as a human being always ready to learn something from somebody else, I manage projects, team members, and other project stakeholders. I learned that if you want to be successful, you must be willing to be uncomfortable. To achieve your goals and realize your potential, you must be willing to do things that you are afraid to do. That is how you develop your potential. I encourage all project managers I work with to follow this principle.

Many professionals who I asked if they have ever been afraid or anxious before trying a new or challenging activity or project, answered “Yes I was.” Most of them told me that sometimes that fear stopped them from taking action. Sometimes people are paralyzed by fear.

Every time you step out of your comfortable zone, you will be gripped by fear and anxiety. Each of us has a comfort zone: a zone of behavior that is natural and familiar to us and where we feel comfortable and safe. The activities and situations that lie inside the comfort area are nonthreatening and familiar. They are routine, part of your everyday life, the things you can do with no sweat. In this category are tasks such as speaking to your friends or professional colleagues, customers, or filling out the daily paperwork at your job. However, you as project manager face experiences or challenges that are outside your comfort zone. I have asked many project managers about their most common fears as project managers managing projects in organizations. From professionals across different countries and cultures, the same answers come up again and again. Some of the most common fears experienced by project managers are shown in Exhibit 4.

Project managers' common fears

Exhibit 4: Project managers' common fears

Are you surprised by any of the fears on this list? I believe the overwhelming majority of project professionals experience these fears at some point in their projects. If you have some fears that were not in the list do not worry about it, TODAY IS A GOOD DAY! You are stronger than any of your fears and you can overcome them.

Now, I want you to consider seriously the price you pay when you back away from those fears that are standing in the way of your growth. Many of us are indeed willing to pay this dear price, simply to avoid temporary discomfort and possible ridicule from others. That is not good. In the long run, retreating is not the best way to handle your problem. You will never be highly successful or develop your talents to the fullest unless you are willing to confront your fears. I am no different from you. I have my fears, just as you do, and when I look back at the first 30 years of my life, do you know what I see? I see someone who achieved some degree of success as an engineer, but I also see someone who was shy, insecure, scared, and self-conscious.

What turned my life around is that I learned to confront my fears and take action. I realized after years of frustration and disappointments that hiding from my fears was not getting me anywhere, and it would never get me anywhere. Of course, I would not have confronted my fears if I had not first developed a positive attitude. A “can-do” attitude provided me with the extra push I needed to take action.

Get Out There and Fail

I can remember the words of my father from a long time ago: “If you want to learn to do something well you must fail first.” I believe failing is a good way to learn to do things better. I can remember when I was a child, and I learned how to ride a bicycle. Perhaps you had a similar experience that began with training wheels. Eventually, when these crutches were removed, keeping your balance became more difficult. You struggled to stay upright, maybe even falling a few times and scraping yourself. You were learning an important lesson early about failure. As you practiced, it is likely that one of your parents walked beside you shouting instructions, encouraging you, and catching you as you lost balance. You were scared, but excited. You looked forward to the time when you would succeed, when you would at last ride free on your own. Or maybe you didn't think at all but were so wrapped up in the experience and how to accomplish the activity. Nobody called you a failure…nor were you worried about failing. So you kept at it every day, and eventually mastered the skill of riding a bike. What contributed to your ultimate success in learning how to ride your bike?

Well, persistence and sheer repetition, certainly. You were going to stick with it no matter how long it took. It also helped that you were enthusiastic about what you set out to achieve, that you could hardly wait to reach your goal. Finally, let us not underestimate the impact of positive encouragement. You always knew your parents were in your corner, supporting you, rooting for your success. As a youngster learning to ride your bike, you were optimistic, thrilled, and eager to meet the challenge. You could not wait to try again. You knew you would master it eventually. However, that was a long time ago. It can be uncomfortable to try something new, perhaps even scary. But if you take your eyes off the goal and instead focus your attention on how others may be viewing you, you are doing yourself a grave disservice. To develop a new skill or reach a meaningful target, you must be committed to doing what it takes to get there, even if it means putting up with negative feedback or falling on your face now and then. Successful people have learned to “fail” their way to success. While they may not particularly enjoy their “failures,” they recognize them as a necessary part of the road to victory.

I spent many years learning the basics of project management, and I still make some mistakes in the projects I manage. However, I try to learn from them. I recognize my failures in front of my people. I am not Superman; I make mistakes every day but at the end of the day, I try to summarize my mistakes and promise myself to make adjustments and plan that the next day will be great. That is, if you keep trying, keep developing yourself, and keep making adjustments along the way, you are going to succeed. You simply need to have enough attempts, go on enough auditions, and visit enough potential clients. Every time I make a mistake managing a project, I recognize it and say “I made a mistake; I will do all my best to correct my mistake, my apologies about that.” It is the type of behavior that I try to get across to my people.

I believe commitment is the essence of a learning attitude. The key to getting what you want is the willingness to do “whatever it takes” to accomplish your objective. What do I mean by this willingness? It is a mental attitude that says: if it takes five steps to reach my goal, I'll take those 5 steps, but if it takes 30 steps to reach my goal, I will be persistent and take those 30 steps. On most occasions in the project field, you do not know how many steps you must take to reach your goal or to accomplish your deliverables. This does not matter. To succeed, all that is necessary is that you make a commitment to do whatever it takes; regardless of the number of steps or activities involved. Persistent action follows commitment. You first must be committed to something before you will persist to achieve it.

Once you make a commitment to achieve your goal, then you will follow through with relentless determination and action until you attain the desired result. The most difficult thing I found is how to convince the team about the big impact on business that commitment within projects has on organizations. When you make a commitment and you are willing to do whatever it takes, including the effort to communicate a clear, convincing, and compelling message, you begin to attract the people and circumstances necessary to accomplish your goal. Your failures are learning experiences that point out the adjustments you must make. Never try to hide from failure, for that approach guarantees that you will take virtually no risks and achieve very little. Life is a series of wins and losses, even for the most successful. The winners in life know that you crawl before you walk and you walk before you run. With each new goal comes a new set of failures. It is up to you whether you treat these disappointments as temporary setbacks and challenges to overcome, or as insurmountable obstacles. If you make it your business to learn from every defeat and stay focused on the end result you wish to attain, failure will eventually lead you to success.

Networking

The sooner you start creating a network, the faster you will progress in your career. I believe that your success starts with you; however, it grows to higher levels as result of your associations and relationships with people. Simply put, you cannot succeed on a grand scale all by yourself. That is why networking is so important. Networking may be defined as the development of relationships with people for mutual benefit. I always took care of keeping my network alive. Some of the business benefits you can get as a project professional from networking activities are:

  1. Generate new clients or business leads,
  2. Increase business and professional opportunities,
  3. Help in finding the right people to fill critical positions or jobs,
  4. Provide valuable information and resources,
  5. Help for your professional relationships by providing personal and professional growth, and
  6. Assist in solving some problems.

But, what can we do to enhance the effectiveness of our network? I found some productive techniques that have been very helpful for me. I have classified these techniques into different categories: taking action, references, communication, and follow up. So we must take action. You must project a winning attitude and you must be active in organizations and associations. Another key aspect is referring people. If you refer someone, make sure that the person mentions your name as a reference. Be explicit. Be a good listener. Have you ever been speaking to someone who goes on and on about himself and his business and never takes a moment to ask about you? We have all run into the “Me, me, me” types—and they are the last people you want to help. So, in your conversations, focus on drawing other people out. Let them talk about their careers and interests. In return, you will be perceived as caring, concerned, and intelligent. You will eventually get your turn to talk about yourself. Call people from time to time just because you care. How do you feel when someone calls you on the phone and says, “Hey, I was just thinking about you and was wondering how you are doing?” I am sure you feel like a million bucks when that happens. If that's the case, why don't we make these calls more often? Every now and then, make it a point to call people in your network simply to ask how they are doing and to offer your support and encouragement.

Send a prompt note after meeting someone for the first time. Let's say you attend a dinner and make a new contact. Send a short note as soon as possible explaining how much you enjoyed meeting and talking with him or her. Enclose some of your own materials and perhaps include information that might be of interest to this person. Ask if there is anything that you can do to assist this individual. Be sure to send the note within 48 hours after your initial meeting so that it is received while you are still fresh in your contact's mind. Build your network. The networking suggestions offered earlier are merely the tip of the iceberg. You should be able to come up with several ideas of your own. How? By going to your library or bookstore and seeking out the many excellent books on networking, and by noticing what other people are doing and adapting their ideas in a way that suits you. Remember that networks are built over time and that significant results usually do not show up immediately. Passion, persistence, and patience must be cultivated if you want to increase your network. Build a solid foundation of relationships and continue to expand and strengthen them. You will have to put in a lot before you begin reaping the big rewards. Professional networking is also a project, so you must prepare a plan for that project. It is critical that you clearly identify your network contacts, develop a personalized networking plan, and build an administrative process to manage it all. It is very important to ask your network contacts for their help, not for a job. People are delighted to help, but few will have a job to offer you.

Conclusions

If you change your attitude, I really believe you will be able to change your life as a project manager managing projects. If I would say that my last five years were a string of successes I would be lying. I have had some failures and some successes along the way. However, the real truth is that I felt happier when I opened my project window and I discovered the huge opportunity I had to learn more from all my colleagues and different project stakeholders. The project of creating a new company was hard, stressful, and challenging but it has been worthwhile. All the ideas and suggestions I have discussed in here are the fruit of my learning as a project manager in organizations, serving my customers, and sharing and learning from other colleagues. If I had to explain my great discovery, I would say “project management is my passion.” Apply courage to your projects, control your fears, and try to feel uncomfortable for a period of time. I am sure you will get something in return. I try to apply my three Ps every day—passion, persistence, and patience. Some days are more successful than others, but every day is a good day. Many times, we are not aware of the amount of blessings we have and we must be thankful for.

References

Beals, G (1996) Thomas Edison “Quotes” Retrived from http://www.thomasedison.com/quotes.html

Dictionary.com (2009) Retrived from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/attitude

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2009, Alfonso Bucero, DEA, PMP
Originally published as a part of 2009 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Orlando, Florida (US)

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