In a word, my life is the constant of lessons-learned.
Since I became the President of IPMA Young Crew Portugal in January 2018, it has been a never-ending learning process. And so has my entire professional experience and my personal life.
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People Are the Drivers, Not Processes
At some point, last year things were getting hard to lead forward. Teams were not motivated enough, they were struggling with a sense of injustice and showing low levels of engagement throughout the entire structure. We knew we had to do something about it, so we shifted our attention entirely to people. It’s not that people weren’t already important, they were just one of our many other focus points. To address this, we first decided to talk to everyone and understand their expectations. These conversations not only helped us show our appreciation for their work so far, but also provided us with tons of information to reflect on.
We then looked inside our organization and started to change our strategy in order to fit in what we’ve learned there with what we wanted to do. We want to create a culture where one can find their own special place so that together everything would be possible. All organizations, and not only voluntary-based ones like ours, should care for people. We know people are the drivers to deliver a project, not processes. Right?
Sustainability Builds on Trust and Empathy
This topic has been discussed all over the place, so it may sound like common ground to you, but you’ll be amazed at how many take for granted their most valuable asset – people. There are a lot of leaders that focus so much on brand and business that usually go like: Why are people sad and underperforming if we have such a great brand and a good business? But do you? Probably yes, but only temporarily. You will always need people to make things happen and that holds true for brands and businesses. Sustainability builds on trust, trust builds on relationships, and relationships build on empathy. Although this may look easy and somehow intuitive, don’t fool yourselves. People are complex.
Sustainability builds on trust, trust builds on relationships, and relationships build on empathy. Although this may look easy and somehow intuitive, don’t fool yourselves. People are complex.
I will never forget a quote from a speaker at one of our conferences saying “people are a lot of things.” If you think carefully this has so much of simplicity than it has of truth. And the sooner you truly impersonate this mindset, the sooner you’ll get to know the ones around you, and the quicker you’ll help them achieve their goals. If you give people a purpose and you mix it with your organization’s mission, you’re closing in on a success formula.
You Can’t Make Everyone Happy
Moreover, I was being haunted by loneliness… a lot. Running a business, a department, or a team can give you that. Every single decision just looks like you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders because you want to choose what’s best for everybody. And then you realize it’s impossible. You will most likely feel miserable and procrastinate on those difficult moments, even if sometimes you know you’re delaying the inevitable. So as a President, or a leader, you have to understand that you can’t make everyone happy.
People rely on you to decide which path to follow with a reason – you’re expected to be in the best position to gather the most valuable information that will support your decisions, and not them. And as long as you trust your vision, you clearly communicate it and motivate your team to pursue it, you’ll probably be fine. Apply coherence between what you say and what you do to develop trust and really invest in that. Sometimes a lot of people will be angry, but that’s normally when you signal a red flag on how wrong you should be. Then you go back to your thoughts and try to figure out what might need adjustments.
Project Managers Need Allies to Delegate Decisions
Decisions are a daily basis for leaders or project managers themselves. We are increasingly dealing with ever-changing contexts or scopes, unexpected budget cuts, new market demands, and people depending on us. We are being flooded with data and asked to act quickly choosing from infinite options. So unless we can upgrade our brain’s processor or add more RAM, as well as multiply ourselves to be in several places at the same time, the outcome could be a disaster.
I’ve faced a bunch of projects that were supposed to last weeks but turned into months instead, even years. Imagine you take more than 9 months to pick the right furniture for your son’s bedroom and by the time he is born he has nowhere to sleep. A bit extreme and ludicrous, I would admit, but we are already there in some of our projects. Despite this overwhelming reality I believe we can find ways to cope and I found mine through agility – the concept that invaded the minds of 99% of project managers worldwide.
I’ve faced a bunch of projects that were supposed to last weeks but turned into months instead, even years. Imagine you take more than 9 months to pick the right furniture for your son’s bedroom and by the time he is born he has nowhere to sleep.
I recently realized that if I wanted to respond faster and better I would need allies. If you can delegate tasks, why not delegate decisions too? Start by identifying those who show the ability to inspire others and also breathe the culture. Understand what motivates them and how they prefer to work. Adjust your speech and way of doing things. Empower them to make decisions without consulting you, show trust, and learn to stay away from every single detail. Ask for reports to follow progress. Finally, watch as the machine works and enjoy the time to target what requires the most of you. Naturally, this won’t happen overnight so I suggest you begin working on it. Don’t try to change from 8 to 80. Introduce slight changes gradually and adjust them to your context. Remember there’s no one-size-fits-all on this, stay agile.
Reflective Practice Works
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Do you bear a resemblance to my experience? Please comment below or write to me, I would love to hear your stories!