Project Management Institute

Projects with purpose


RYAN BLAIR is an entrepreneur, executive coach and public speaker who founded wireless broadband Internet service provider SkyPipeline. After SkyPipeline merged with NextWeb, Mr. Blair introduced, a free social network that allows users to connect with mentors and peers for guidance and support. His executive coaching practice helps corporate leaders improve efficiency and grow their businesses.



If you are devoting energy to developing strategies on how to best motivate your team, you are wasting your time. To see results, you must shift your focus to motivating the individuals who make up that team.

Over the past 10 years, I have managed projects both as an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur, launching call centers, expanding terrestrial and satellite-based networks, developing back-office software systems and managing numerous marketing initiatives. Before launching my current company,, I analyzed my past projects and found that the lessons of failed projects—devoting far too much time to the motivation and micromanagement of my team—were the key to my growth. On my failed projects, each team member lacked at least one of what I now call The Five Principles of Fulfillment:

1. Identify the path that will lead to your purpose. This requires you to step back, a seemingly counterintuitive task. In my failed projects, I realized I often was more committed than my employees. To launch, my employees had to be connected to the project's greater purpose.

2. Supply mentors for support and guidance. When projects fail in spite of employee commitment it's because individuals lack knowledge; even leaders must look for support at every turn and not be afraid to ask for help. Success has trails—I reverse-engineered the successes of projects that were similar to my own. I spoke with computer scientists about creating a social community application that would be scalable to meet multimillion user demands. I also spoke with doctors and sociologists to better understand the intricacies of social networking and how best to translate these traits to create “human software.”

photography by NICK SOUZA

3. Create empowering beliefs. There has to be a unified belief that a given project can be completed successfully; creating a positive outlook in the face of risk.

4. Generate unwavering focus. This principle is a matter of personal dedication and the ability to block distracting thoughts that can bring a project to its knees. Trying to raise venture capital in the months following 11 September 2001 was no easy task, but I refused to be derailed by the economic challenges and raised $2.5 million. If your employees see you manage a project without distraction, they will want to emulate your focus.

5. Set and achieve your goals with a simple strategy I call the G.O.A.L. (Goal, Outcome, Association, Leverage) formula. The Goal step requires you to identify and write down your goals. In the Outcome step you identify each goal's desired result. In Association, you take a step back from the project's details and correlate a feeling to each accomplished goal and outcome. Finally, you create a Leveraged action plan that serves as a road map toward gain and positive outcomes. If your project is on track with the first four principles, the G.O.A.L. formula will ensure that success flows naturally.

Even leaders must look for support at every turn and not be afraid to ask for help.

At its core, an organizational buy-in strategy is all about reciprocity. No matter your industry or corporate culture, there is no reason that each and every one of your employees can't be aware of his or her passion and purpose. Envision what happens when you lead your team as a sheepdog, herding the masses in one general direction. The sheep in front are far from the source of motivation, only moving quickly enough to avoid being run over. To lead this way requires constant attention and energy that could be used elsewhere. Spend the time to teach your employees and manage strategies that motivate through an alignment with a greater purpose. PM

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