Look for Trends when Getting Advice
As a small business owner I’ve had many many discussions with colleagues about my products and services. Throughout these discussions I have gleaned some outstanding pieces of advice about things I should be focusing on and ideas that I should be pursuing. I also have been on the receiving end of some pretty random ideas which may have had some merit in the eyes of the beholder but just didn't seem to fit well with the direction that I want to take the business. One colleague of mine got pretty peeved with me because I wasn't executing upon his advice. The truth is, his advice just didn't align with the other advice I was getting and didn't fit well with the direction that I want to go. I stuck with my spider-senses and didn't execute upon his advice.
I always want to ensure I am putting my four decades of experience to good use by helping others grow—and helping them avoid some of the (many) mistakes I made as a project manager, leader and human being.
In thinking through my responsibility as a steward, it occurred to me that being effective as a project manager is much more than honing skills—it’s about guiding project managers in not only work skills, but also life experiences. It’s about positioning project managers for long-term success. It’s about helping PMs bounce back from failure, learn from it, and then help others avoid the same failure. It’s about what I call building sustainability, which will be the underlying theme of my content: the Sustainable PM.
Read more on my column at ProjectManagement.com.
George Bailey and Leadership
In the movie It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey contemplates suicide after his uncle misplaces a deposit which threatens the closure of his bank. Just as George is about to jump off a bridge, his guardian angel Clarence jumps in the water prompting George to jump into the water to rescue him. After the rescue, Clarence takes George on a journey to show him what life would have been like had George never been born. George got to see first-hand how person after person was worse off because each of them didn't have the opportunity to be touched by George in some way. Even George's wife Mary met the politically incorrect fate of being an old maid working in the city library. After George's alternate reality journey, he emerged with a wonderful appreciation for all of the good he did in his life and how he impacted so many people with his kindness, generosity, and empathy.
I used this story to open up my sister Lori's eulogy.
When I was a kid one Christmas I got a Lionel train set from my parents. It was really cool. The locomotive had a smoke stack that actually "smoked" when you put a drop of oil into it. I can still remember the burning oil smell the locomotive would emit as it raced around the tracks. The transformer which governed the speed of the train went all the way up to "90" (I still believe it was in "miles per hour!") and had three rail cars that were all different colors and a caboose. The train set also came with enough track to form a figure-8 that I would push the tracks together using special pins that fit into the ends of the tracks.
When I was a kid in Connecticut I went with my Father to take my sister and her infant son to the train station. My sister had a lot of bags so my Father helped her carry her things on to the train. I was standing on the platform waiting for my Father to get off the train so we could go home. Then all of a sudden the train started moving with my Father still on the train! Here I am, an 8-year-old boy standing on the train platform all by myself while my Father is on the train heading to Washington DC. I remember seeing the train start to pull away, and my Father waving at me through the window to go to the ticketing office so I can tell them what happened. This was in the days where there were no cell phones, so my Father couldn't communicate with me to let me know what was happening. I went into the ticketing office and through sobs told the ticket agent that my Father got stuck on the train and I got left on the platform all by myself. The ticket agent was very reassuring and told me that everything was going to be OK. Fortunately the next stop was only about 30 minutes away so I was reunited with my Father in an couple of hours. It was one of the scariest times of my entire childhood, being left on the train platform all by myself.
So everything isn't always peachy keen when it comes to working together. At times co-workers are going to get in each others' face and have some conflict. As a bystander, there's some things you can do and not do to help put out the co-worker fire:
Some time back I spent about three hours writing and doing emails at one of our local malls. I love this place because there are lots of tables to sit at and the mall has free wireless access so I can be online all the time. As I was exiting the mall I noticed a woman about 20 feet away from the entrance heading into the mall. As I walked out the door I held the door open for this woman for a few seconds. As she walked by me into the mall she said "WOW!" She was surprised that I actually took three seconds out of my life to hold a door open for a complete stranger. Imagine what I could have done with those three seconds that I wasted :-).
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