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Identity Crisis

What to do when people don’t ‘get’ what you do.

I was watching a program on TV and one of the character’s lines both resonated and felt like a punch in the stomach.what you do

Two cops were standing over a body and one says to the other: “the victim was a project manager, whatever that is.”


Can you relate? I can.

In some circles, the profession of project manager is an everyday thing.  But to others, it’s not a typical, mainstream job that they’ve heard of and you’ll get a “what’s that” when you tell those folks what you do. You would think the two words ‘project’ and ‘manager’ would be self-explanatory but bewilderment is an honest and frequent reaction.

So how do you handle it?

  • Don’t get defensive. You know your profession is legitimate and normal even if some people don’t understand it
  • Use a reference most people can identify with. If you get a blank look when using your job title, go on to give an example they can relate to, like building a house. When you describe managing the phases (pouring the foundation, framing, wiring, etc.) as part of the overall project of building a house, it’s easier for people to understand the concept.
  • Lead with an exciting explanation of what you do, not a job title. Start with a benefit statement such as “I help companies manage their business ventures and get things done.”

If you are a project manager struggling to have your role understood, what new and inventive name would you give to what you do?

What do Spinning Classes and Projects Have in Common?

I started back at the gym a few weeks ago….and have re-kindled my passion for group rides (aka spinning classes). I’d forgotten what aspin good work out they can be and how energized I feel when I’m done. Here’s some similarities I noticed that parallel what we do as business owners when we implement projects for ourselves or get things done for our clients…..can you relate to any of these?

Spinning classes are like projects because they:
– Start and end
– Require planning to get set up correctly (each bike has to be adjusted for the person doing the ride)
– Require you to assess risk – depending on how ‘new’ you are you need to make sure you work at your own pace so you can safely complete the class
– Require you to watch for Issues – have you got enough water, are you working at too high an intensity, has your shoe lace come undone – you need to adjust your plan if any of these issues arise
– Assess what you might do differently the next time ( Lessons learned) – arrive earlier, set up your bike a bit differently, bring more water, double knot your shoe laces, work at your own pace

Looking forward to a fitter & prosperous 2014!


When it comes to management styles, do you ride the merry-go-round or roller coaster?

It occurred to me while mowing grass recently, that while I find the experience coastermostly therapeutic: the drone of the John Deere, the sunshine and the break from technology (actually my BlackBerry is always within reach in case I need to ping someone to bring me water or gas), I secretly long for a few challenges to break up the ride. Sure – most of the job I can do with my eyes shut … just endless acres of flat stretches. But, here and there I hit a roadblock or obstacle: fallen branches to clear, standing water to manoeuver, mechanical issues to deal with or a family of turkeys to slow me down. There’s nothing like a tricky situation to get the problem solving brain cells firing as well as fueling a story to tell back at the garage.

How about you? Do you crave a predictable job that plods along and keeps your stress level low? Or are you a thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie that loves a problem to fix or a fire to fight?

Couple words of advice:

  • If you are at the mellow end of the spectrum, don’t become too complacent even when things are going well. Be sure to regularly monitor all the pulse points of your project for signs things might be going off the rails so you’re prepared for the speed bumps.
  • For the risk takers out there – don’t take them. Do a thorough job of risk planning and assessment. You will still have the satisfaction of managing through a crisis when it occurs without having thrown caution to the wind along the way.

Keep in mind managing projects and teams requires various management styles and approaches to get results. Learn what it takes to get it done:

A Small Start Can Lead to a Big Finish

We’ve all taken jobs during our ‘salad days’ – remember when you were working your way through university or when OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAyou were just starting out in life – to make ends meet.

For me, one of the 3 concurrent jobs I had in my early days, was selling Tupperware (my husband used to say “No sex, no supper, just tupper, tupper, tupper”). One night when I arrived at a party I had booked, only 3 guests had shown up. I hid my disappointment with a big smile and loads of enthusiasm while inwardly groaning at the dismal situation. Nevertheless, I gave a full-meal-deal presentation, in spite of the small audience.

Well one lady must have liked what I had to say, my honest and heartfelt belief in the product and generosity with my giveaways (Tupperware totally OWNED the pink spoon concept back then with all their clever little plastic gadgets to hand out!), because she said she’d like to have a party too and so we agreed on a date.

When I showed up at her house on the appointed night, there were over 30 people there! These guests were attentive (they actually wanted to be there!), bought lots of Tupperware and booked parties themselves.  It was the most profitable party I had ever had AND my most successful, long-running chain of parties and referrals … and it all began with that little party of 3 people.

My point?

Don’t be discouraged if you’ve just hung your PM shingle out there and there’s no big stampede to your door, or you only have  a few clients. Make the most of your ‘start up’ phase with these cool things you can do:

  • Dazzle your clients with extreme customer care (you should be doing this anyway). They will be blown away by the time and attention you are giving their business.
  • Relish the idea of exclusivity. Make it a sign of status that you are only working with a small, select group of clients (there is nothing wrong with this).
  • Take the time to refine, improve and test your processes. Make sure the work flows you are using for a few clients are scalable for when your business grows.

Focusing on delivering quality service and results is the secret to endorsements, referrals and a great reputation. The business will follow!

Issues … when to sweat the small stuff.

So I took my mother to the pharmacy which shares a small, busy parking lot with a doctor’s office. The lot was jammed fender benderthat particular morning and there were 3 cars, including me, all trying to back out of our spots at the same time. A fourth car came screaming in the exit (there’s only 1 way in and one way out of this lot and this driver violated the natural order) and whipped into the parking space behind me. Seeing he had pulled in, and silently confirming via eye contact with other drivers around me that it was my move, I proceeded to back out. BAM! The car that had flew into the lot, decided to straighten out his park job and backed right into me!

I got out to inspect the damage (a scratch in my mind, a catastrophe is what my husband would call it), looked at the guy that hit me (decided it wasn’t worth pursuing with my insurance company) and told him to have a nice weekend.

In my head, I had run through my options and outcomes for managing this issue:
1. Ignore it. Do nothing. Deny all knowledge if my husband notices the scratches (high likelihood he will notice but low probability he can pin the blame on me with any certainty). Impact to performance of car – zero. Resolution: the white paint on my sleek and shiny black bumper can be buffed off.
2. Identify the issue to my husband immediately. Suffer the drama and suggest we use the buffing kit I gave him for Christmas 5 years ago to fix the issue. Car still performs as usual.
3. Keep the issue on my radar. If it is discovered in the future, wheel out our handy buffing kit, and keep on driving.

It’s much the same with managing issues in projects or on the job. When issues occur, clarify them, rank the severity of the issue (high or low impact on project), formulate a plan for resolving the issue (and an owner), then monitor until it is resolved or no longer an issue.

We all secretly hope for an issue-free project but that’s not the world I live in. Having a plan for how issues will be managed however, makes dealing with them a whole lot more effective.

Postscript … the instant this blog was posted, my issue became a risk. Someone could read it and expose my issue on Facebook to my husband! Now … the dark art of risk management … that’s another story …

Why you can’t seem to ‘Get it Done’.

There is nothing more satisfying then crossing something off your list and saying yeah … “done!” But it’s surprising just how get it doneinfrequently we do just that, or how painfully long it takes to get something done.

What’s keeping you from getting to done?

  •  You’re still the ‘doer’ in your business
  • You assign and monitor of all your team’s tasks
  • You handle all the logistics and admin for your business or events
  • You manage every detail of your product or program launches
  • You look after all the day-to-day operations
  • You are the business owner AND the business manager
  • You have more work than capacity to do it (or keep track of)!

If this sounds like your Clark Kent job (your day job or what you do to pay the bills but not what you really want to do) and you’ve reached your bursting point, let us show you how our management services can help get more done and work less.

You’ll have an ‘S’ on your chest in no time!

Get in touch:

Is your next project a propeller and you’re about to walk into it? Taking over a troubled project.

At some point, most of us have had to take over a project that is circling the drain. If you can pull it back from the brink, Propelleryou walk away a hero, but these troubled projects come with a lot of risk and a bad rep so rescuing it will be a challenge at best.

First of all, how do you know a project is failing? The obvious signs include budget overruns, not delivering what the customer expected, the project is seriously behind schedule or the quality is not acceptable.

So if you are the lucky one to be parachuted in to save the day, here’s a couple hints for the road to recovery:

  • Conduct a review. Find out just how bad the situation is – the project may be in crisis or a mess, but still considered worth salvaging by the sponsor.
  • Assess everything. Get the facts of the project (scope, schedule, budget, resources, quality, reports, interview team members, discover root causes of problems) so you have a start point for decisions and action
  • Create a plan. Based on the findings from the assessment, there could be changes in the approach for the project (goals, schedules, scope etc).
  • Work the plan – with focus. This is now job 1 so manage and track the action items as if your project life depends on it – because it does. This will be a period of dedication to tactical work, frequent status meetings and reports, a sense of urgency (but not panic) and plenty of communication.
  • Keep monitoring. Once the crisis has been resolved and the project saved, keep monitoring for a period of time to be sure things stay on track.

Don’t be too discouraged if despite your heroic efforts the project gets killed anyway. We call these ‘character building’ projects and they will be part of your project management life. They make excellent lessons learned and a priceless leadership experience.

Do you have a troubled project that needs saving? Contact us at

Being Virtual – Celebrating Earth Day every day!

Earth Day April 22nd, has inspired us to revive our ‘eco’ blog post in recognition of the earth-friendly benefits of being aapril11blog virtual or online business.

Here’s a few ways we virtual professionals are saving the planet!

Reducing our carbon footprint. No commute here … our average travel time from bed to desk is under 30 seconds and the only fuel required is coffee!

Saving energy. No rows of fluorescent lighting in our offices … just 4 energy-efficient light bulbs and a big old window.

Tree hugging. That’s right. Trees are cheering us for buying less coffee in paper take-out cups as we keep beating a path to the kitchen to refill our mugs.

So the next time feeling guilty about the pleasures of working virtually – you know, like wearing pyjamas all day – think of the more noble aspects and how you are really helping to save the planet!

All fired up? Why not support one of these world-wide causes or your favourite environmental charity.

Your project manager … the ultimate accountability partner

Who is holding you accountable these days? How is all your work getting done? Are you ontodo list track to meet your business dreams?

Sure, business planning is easy on paper. But how are you converting those goals into tactics that will achieve results and actually making sure they get actioned?

Most successful people will confess they didn’t make on their own. The truly successful engage the help of other skilled professionals to help realize their vision.

The edge that propels smart businesses is using project managers to execute their business plans, coordinate their service offerings or launch and manage their programs.

Who’s managing your projects, your portfolio, your business and do they know what they’re doing? Are they accountable alongside you and focused on your success?

Find out more about what project management can do for your business.

Training, support and solutions:

PM’s … your guardrails along the project highway

We all know finding colourful or meaningful analogies for a situation help us make our point or position it in terms that people can relate too. It’s useful for converting conceptsguardrails or things we might not ‘get’, into processes we understand and can see the value in.

A long drive on a highway led to thoughts of the similarities between guardrails and project managers, and some parallel purposes:

  • Lines of business, roles, or functions – like lanes of traffic, are kept divided (thankfully!) by guardrails, much the same as the project manager keeps the distinction between project participants or responsibilities clear
  • If you follow the guardrail you will stay on track … the project manager also keeps things moving in the right direction
  • Guardrails can be like an early warning system, letting you know there is potentially dangerous area ahead – just like a project manager planning for risk
  • In the event of an accident, guardrail barriers can help minimize or contain the extent of the disaster. Project managers also have a risk mitigation plan for when catastrophes occur.
  • Project managers, like guardrails, can keep you from going over a cliff. PM’s plan for the worst and are there to keep something really bad from happening

Guardrails, while not sexy, are definitely purposeful and are there to help make your trip from A to B less hazardous. Project managers are there to take things from start to finish … and keep the project from going off the ‘rails’!

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