Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | January 8, 2010

Project managers are unique creatures

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Project managers are unique creatures. They need to survive demanding customers, live with bureaucratic standards, never ending scope changes and challenge their leadership and managerial skills in matrix management structures. This recipe is not suit for everyone.

 The PMs that survived for long time in this job are the one that know how to motivate themselves or to get the support they need in other places. But eventually, the great PMs are the one with the correct character which has the right strengths to handle these problems by themselves.

Project managers need to know how to work in stressed environment, to keep their project team focused and motivate them during the obstacles they will faced. A lost PM that cannot push and motivate himself will not be able to drive his team and will lose them in the way.

I am sure that I am not the only one who wanted to throw all his plans to the garbage, smash his laptop or any other stress relief action, after his plans were change over and over by some bureaucrats that know nothing about projects managements and achieving results.

But these are the kind of things you need to handle as a project manager. Most of the time ( PM has only few minutes of joy. During the recognitions ceremony )

So before you start destroy your equipment or your liver with too much scotch, here are some thoughts about motivation for project managers.  In addition, I gathered some insightful comments in the web, which make me think about the needed character from PMs.

  • You are doing something special

When I need to improve my feeling and boost my motivation, I remind myself that if this work was easy, everyone would do it. I remind myself all the problems I solved in my past projects, how I overcome all the surprises which popped up and continue the good job.

In the end, you as a project s managers are in a leading positions, and although you can get support from your team and peers, you should be able to develop your own strategies to motivate yourself.

Being a leader and a manager is a lonely job. You cannot share all your thoughts and fears.  You must know how to live with that.

As one of the comments I got said (from Terry Schmidt):” remind yourself of other tough situations that you were able to turn around and probe for the skills you used. Was it your ability to negotiate more resources, modify a faulty plan, change the approach? And what were the underlying qualities that enabled you to use those skills, such as confidence, tenacity, and humor. Call on those qualities now”

Other comment I liked, mention the Stockdale Paradox:

“Retain Faith that you
will prevail in the end,
regardless of the
difficulties

And At same Time

Confront the
most brutal facts
of your
current reality,
whatever they might be.”

It’s all about character. If you survived as a PM for long time, you probably have it. Remember this the next time your confidence is lost and your motivation is low and use it to build them again.

  • Talk with someone

Do not get me wrong. You should not work alone and try to solve all your problems by yourself. Knowing strategies that will improve your motivation by yourself is important, but getting support from your peers and project team members is essential also.

From my experience, you will be amazed from the support and help you can get when you start asking for that. Although we are afraid to expose our fears, doing this will give others the opportunity to help us.

  • Find other things to do

Try to find other things to do. I do not mean for hobbies and having fun with your family. This is obvious (we can devote several posts for the importance of these activities), but it sometimes might be like running away from problems and not facing them – although its charge your batteries.

When I talked about doing other things I meant to projects things. Projects are loaded with tasks needed to be done.  When you feel you are stuck with your problems and your motivation is too low, you can leave your problems for some time and focus on easier problems.

Achieve small wins. The success on doing these simpler tasks can start moving the wheels, build your motivation and spirit again. 

Just do not make it a habit. Someone needs to do the job.

As we mention in the beginning, project management is a tough business. There are picks of success where all the things you do go smoothly, but there are much more periods when you need to recruiting all yours strengths to raise your motivation and go on.

These are some summarized thoughts – mine and others – about motivation. I would be happy to hear your suggestions for improving project managers’ motivation.

Good luck!

Gilad

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