9 NEW Inspiring TED Talks for Project Managers

TED is one of the most entertaining sources of inspiration for project managers that will help you spend your time one-on-one with the best storytellers in the world. Make sure that you listen to each, as they’ve prepared timeless lessons for you. As I consider these TED talks equally inspiring for project managers, they are sorted in no particular order.

Elizabeth Lyle: How to break bad management habits before they reach the next generation of leaders


Have you ever thought that your bad leadership habits can pass on to the next generation of leaders? Many young leaders inherit from their supervisors and repeat the catch-22 scenario. But the worst thing is that some of their bad routines become the habits of a lifetime for organizations. After all, a business that undergoes digital transformation can’t afford similar scenarios. Luckily, we have coaches like Elizabeth Lyle. She educates senior leaders on change and sheds old-fashioned leadership patterns. Elizabeth encourages younger generations to talk about major show-stoppers upon notice. Because when they are in the saddle, the worst way they can choose is repeating bad habits of their teachers.

Ari Wallach: 3 ways to plan for the very long term


This TED talk on planning would become a great addition to Elizabeth Lyle’s. Ari Wallach, the speaker, is an expert who helps great leaders be more self-conscious about shaping their futures. “So it’s important that we remember — the future, we treat it like a noun. It’s not, it’s a verb. It requires action, it requires us to push into it. It’s not this thing that washes over us. It’s something that we actually have total control over. But in a short-term society, we end up feeling like we don’t,” says Ari. In this TED talk, he brings to light civilizational-scale problems and explains why short-term planning, or ‘short-termism,’ as he puts it, leads to numerous disasters. Ari focuses on different kinds of thinking that encourage long path philosophy, such as transgenerational thinking, futures thinking, and telos thinking. What distinguishes these three types of thinking from short-term contemplation is a focus on our actions as triggers to the next generations.

Liv Boeree: 3 lessons on decision-making from a poker champion


Ask yourself who you weren’t, occupying a project management position. Project managers are jugglers, builders, prophets, watchers, officers, poker players (scrum), and while they try on many other roles, they’re decision-makers, first place. This is the shortest speech among the other TED talks for project managers in this list, but it’ll give you three essential and straightforward lessons. Liv Boeree, a poker winner of the European Poker Tour, shares her twist on decision-making based on her own experience. She’ll walk you through her understanding of the lucky factor, communication, and intuition. The main lesson from her speech leaders have to remember is this one: “When we speak in numbers, we know what lands in the other person’s brain.”

Chieh Huang: Confessions of a recovering micromanager


Micromanagement is a hard lesson to learn for every leader. Chieh Huang is the co-founder and CEO of Boxed.com who once went off the rails to micromanage workers telling them how to write notes to customers. Let’s forgive him because based on this journey, he gave us one of the most creative definitions to micromanagement and delivered his most precious lessons.

Micromanagement is taking great, wonderful, imaginative people, bringing them into an organization, and then crushing their souls by telling them what font size to use. — Chieh Huang

This is the funniest TED talk for project managers I’ve personally seen in years. Who else compares his mother-in-law to a micromanager because both are constantly watching over somebody’s shoulder? But to be serious, in his speech, Chieh dwells upon the downsides and upsides of not micromanaging. His story simply deserves to be heard for the sake of the final lesson he utters at the end of the talk.

Julia Dhar: How to disagree productively and find common ground


It happens that a project manager comes to work and finds a new idea on the table. A debate is coming. One of your team members has just suggested something that, in their opinion, will blow away the market. How do you open your mind to it and how do you come completely tolerant, but objective to an idea? How do you disagree productively to a bad idea to filter it out? Julia Dhar has been arguing since her childhood to figure out the technical skills needed to win a debate, and she has learned some valuable lessons to share when idea management is concerned. Attacking a person making the argument is the last thing you should ever consider, admits Julia, and proves that finding common ground is imperative firsthand.

Vinay Shandal: How conscious investors can turn up the heat and make companies change


This is a must-watch TED talk for project managers who work with senior investment professionals. Vinay Shandal reflects on how they can catalyze large-scale change in organizations by solving different environmental, social, and governmental issues that line up with their values and purposes. If you work with a conscious investor and have an idea of making your portfolio greener, then you can use your voices together to improve the environment and the society, says Vinay.

Margaret Heffernan: Forget the pecking order at work


Margaret Heffernan is a management thinker, a brilliant TED speaker, and the former CEO of five businesses. She delivers an exceptionally important message to project management experts, giving advice on how to build a dream team with the potential to show spectacular results. Margaret’s story starts with research conducted on two different types of chickens — ordinary generation of chickens and the superflock. From there, the speaker jumps to her own experience of working with different companies and makes a statement that we have a wrong understanding of how to achieve success at a company level and how teams should be built. Margaret is convinced that success is not achieved by picking superstars and giving them all resources and power. In fact, such actions lead to aggression, dysfunction, and waste of the team members’ energy. What matters and outperforms individual intelligence is social connectedness, a high degree of sensitivity and empathy to each other. Margaret proceeds with her speech, identifying how to increase the level of social connectedness, as it won’t happen naturally between your team members.

Melinda Epler: 3 ways to be a better ally in the workplace


Melinda Epler was the Head of Marketing and Culture at an international engineering firm in 2013. Her experience there proved to be rather negative. The company culture taught her some fundamental lessons about cooperation and management that she now brings to the masses. According to Melinda, “While there were bigger issues, most of what happened were little behaviors and patterns that slowly chipped away my ability to do my work well. They ate away my confidence, my leadership, my capacity to innovate.” Melinda raises the issues that are probably familiar to everyone. Her point is that in organizations, there are people who are underprivileged because of many factors, like gender, race, nationality, geography, skin color, etc. So this TED talk is for people who would like to rebuild their confidence. If you’re a project management leader, it will also help you figure out a strategy to lead successful meetings with your team and make sure you are heard every time.

Frances Frei: How to build (and rebuild trust)


Frances Frei is a Harvard Business School professor who once committed all her efforts to rebuild trust to Uber when it was on fire. Frances believes that with trust people would reach unprecedented human progress. She sheds light on the component parts of trust and reveals how each of them — authenticity, logic, and empathy — can get shaky. But the main value of this TED talk for project managers is gaining knowledge of how to restore and nurture trust both on organizational and team level.

Illustration: Copyright © Irena Voilenko

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