Project Management Institute

Projecting passion





I feel sorry for the project manager who does not believe in his or her project. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. Yet over the years, I have detected a lack of passion in some European project managers at multinational companies.

I strongly believe enthusiasm is contagious—leaders need to transmit positive energy. In 2000, when I participated in the Y2K program at computer and technology giant HP, I had the opportunity to work with European project managers from the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. The program manager was an enthusiastic man from the United Kingdom whom I dubbed the “smiling guy” because he always encouraged us to deal positively with the challenges we were confronted with. And although he had plenty of responsibilities, he always took time to listen to our local concerns and support us in front of our managers. I enjoyed his constant optimism and thought he was a great leader.


Some of the European project managers thought his smiling reflected a lack of seriousness and professionalism. But I have found a smile energizes people. You may not be able to prevent the problems, obstacles or issues that come up on a project, but you can choose how to deal with them. Successful project managers understand attitude is a choice. Passionate people choose to be positive regardless of the situation.

Here are some ways project leaders can cultivate enthusiasm and engagement within their cross-cultural teams. I've used them on projects with professionals from different cultures, in Europe and Asia, and they worked for me.

Believe in what you do. One of the best ways to engender enthusiasm is to talk about the positive aspects of your project. This will help get people excited about their work and enable that feeling to spread throughout the team.

Show a sense of urgency. A good way to fire up your team is to create a feeling of importance around project tasks. If there's lack of passion, institute slightly more ambitious deadlines. Raising the stakes should raise your team's focus and energy.

Be willing to take on increased responsibilities. The next time someone asks you to help them with a task, go beyond what's required.

Strive for excellence. Nothing breeds enthusiasm like a job well done. If you've allowed yourself to ease off when it comes to quality standards, redouble efforts to do things according to your highest levels of excellence. PM


Alfonso Bucero, PMP, is an independent consultant who manages projects throughout Europe and Asia. He is the author of Project Management—A New Vision and coauthor of Project Sponsorship: Achieving Management Commitment for Project Success.

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