Actor, producer and television presenter Nikki Muller is ready to leave her comfort zone and leverage her years of experience in the entertainment industry to pursue her own passion project.
Speaking to PMI during the Virtual Experience Series (VES), Muller discussed the importance of trust and being able to ask for help when working with a team. She also shared how she’s putting her own dream team together to make her moonshot idea reality in this exclusive interview for PM Network®.
PMI: When did you first realize the importance of project management?
Muller: In my former life, I worked at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. I was working on a big project that didn't really pan out the way we wanted. So many people were involved, and everyone was disappointed. My boss looked me straight in the eye and said, “Nikki, the number one reason projects don't succeed is because the deliverables were not defined from the beginning.” It is something that resonates with me to this day because it’s always a balancing act, but when the goal post keeps shifting, it's not possible to win. That lesson stuck with me, and every time I take on something new, I remember to define the deliverables, making sure everybody on board has the same mission and sticks with it.
PMI: What is the most challenging project you are managing right now?
Muller: The most challenging project that I am managing right now is a labor of love. This is the first time that I am investing in my own ideas, working with a dream team to produce a television pilot. Usually, you come up with a pitch and go out to different platforms and say, “Would you like to invest in this idea?” But this time, we're going to take it into our own hands. That's how much we believe in it. So it's been really, really tough because I'm the producer, I'm the fixer and I'm the writer—it's a lot to take on. It's a challenge because I am really pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. It is such a lean team, but we're excited and we believe in the project—a music travel series.
PMI: What's the most significant project you've ever worked on?
Muller: The most significant project that I've ever worked on is one that really pushed me to the edge. I used to work for Fox Sports Asia, and one of the great things that I got to do was cover the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. It's two weeks of absolute-adrenaline live TV. I had so many hats, from doing live reporting on the ground to post-match interviews and producing really big features. They trusted me and gave me autonomy. The assignment was to deliver features right before the men's and women’s finals to 200 million viewers across Asia in prime time. This is where I really had a chance to think outside the box and go out and find the interesting stories. It was a very lean team—just myself, a cameraman and an editor—with me wearing all the other hats. So I was really running around like a headless chicken, but it was so thrilling. The reward for me was seeing the response from one of the players I did a feature on; seeing her tear up on live TV when she said it reminded her of the good old days and the wonderful things that she had achieved. She told me a year later that she was going through a tough time in her life. She said, “I watched that feature every day when I was getting better, because it reminded me of what I could be again.”
PMI: What was a key lesson you learned while covering Wimbledon?
Muller: Don't be afraid to ask for help. When we take something on and the stakes are high, a lot of us think, “I'm going to prove myself.” But when you ask for help, you'll be surprised that you will get it. Most people want to work as a team: Together Everybody Achieves More (TEAM). Also, know where you add the most value and where you are lacking, so you can seek the right people who have that skill set, because they're going to be in your corner trying to achieve the same thing.
PMI: Do you have one piece of advice to help our community manage projects better?
Muller: One of my best friends is the CEO of a large global company. He was in a big meeting for a high-stakes project that was going awry. Everyone looked at him and asked, “What do we do?” And he said, “I don't know.” He said it was so liberating. There was a feeling in the room as the team began to really open up and say, “Wow, that showed vulnerability, that shows accessibility, that shows authenticity. It shows that you're willing to learn and grow with us.” It really changed the dynamic for the team because they realized they were in it together. Having that growth mindset is really important, especially for senior leaders in a team. Trust makes a world of difference for the dynamic in the team. Trust is everything.
PMI: What is your moonshot idea that you would love to assemble a team around and make reality?
Muller: My moonshot idea is producing a pilot for a big music travel series that I'm really, really invested in emotionally, physically and mentally. It took me 10 years to get here and have the opportunity to produce my own stories. When you have this big moonshot idea, and it's finally landed in front of you, you have to make a decision. Am I going to jump or am I going to stay in my comfort zone? But I know that I'm not in this alone. I've got a great team around me and I think that when you have the right people in your corner, it makes a world of difference. I already have my dream team, so the next thing is to get it done and then go out to market and shop it. It's really, really, exciting. I like acronyms, so I loved this definition of fear when I heard it: FEAR—it can either be forget everything and run, or face everything and rise. Try that one on for size!
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