One of the brilliant pieces written by students from The Monthly Masterclass
I’ve been a Project Manager for 16 years. I’ve managed projects in Melbourne, Adelaide, Oxford and Washington DC. They have ranged from tripartite projects between a government, a university and a private organisation - to an outrage mitigation strategy, for all of Australia’s banks, in an attempt to get everyone in this country to stop hating their guts. I manage clients, contracts, budgets, timelines, risk, resources, scope, quality and communications. Hundreds of meetings, thousands of stakeholders, millions and millions of dollars. All day, every day.
And I love it.
And I’m good at it. Was from day one.
I’m good at the plans, the spreadsheets, the Gantt charts, the task lists, the action items, the negotiations, the making it happen. To everyone else, being a Project Manager probably sounds boring – structure, deadlines, milestones. But for me – it’s organised heaven. In my early days I would be asked “Why Project Management?” I would say that I like to manage projects, not people. People are unpredictable idiots. And sooks, girls, pains-in-the-arse, bludgers, ball-breakers and time-wasters. And stuff that. I’ll manage projects, thanks.
But projects ARE people. Whenever a project goes right – it’s because of people and when a project goes wrong – it’s because of people. Managing the dates, the dollars, the logistics, that’s the easy bit. Any monkey can do that. It’s managing people that’s hard, that’s the real skill, the money shot.
I didn’t know this when I started out – young, fit (well, fat) and greedy. I thought it was all about the technical stuff, the planning, the book-smarts.
Then one day someone broke my heart. And smashed me to pieces.
Even though I knew the drill, how to plan the plans, schedule the schedule and budget the budget, my spirit had been crushed. And I struggled. Every. Single. Goddamn. Day.
I was broken-hearted.
And because I was broken-hearted, I started to see everything through my broken-hearted eyes.
I saw that the office arsehole was an arsehole because his wife didn’t love him anymore. I saw the nastiest cow in the entire organisation, that had grown up in foster care, was now in an abusive relationship. I saw that the unlikeable IT nerd who would never cooperate with anything and was always being excluded by the group, just didn’t have any friends. And I saw how everyone bagged the old guy, who’d been there forever, set in his ways, scared of change and just wanted everything to stay the same. Yes, they were pains in the arse. But everyone let them know that they were.
When projects hit road blocks, invariably, the road blocks are people and the people are straight out of this unloved lot.
My broken heart knew that ultimately, people just want to feel loved. Included, consulted, respected, considered, call it what you like – I call it love.
So, I still make my lists, my schedules, my spreadsheets. I still hold my meetings, negotiate with my contractors and manage my schedules, but I’ve got new actions on my lists now.
I seek out the unloved amongst my stakeholders and I include them in on the conversations in the lunchroom, invite them out for Friday night drinks, pop into their office for a quick chat, for advice, or for their opinion and every time someone is painful or difficult or just being a pain in the arse, I see them through my broken-hearted eyes. I try and understand. Try and throw them a little love.
And I would see them change. See them warm up. See them try too.
I used to lecture in Project Management. One day I had a student ask me “When did you know you were a good Project Manager?”
I didn’t have to think about my answer. I shot straight back.
“When I realised that everything is all about feeling loved, and everything else is bullshit.”