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A man (or woman) can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else. *** John Burroughs ***
For those in the UK you will not have failed to notice that there is a small matter of a general election looming on June 8th. General elections are a strange affair with most political parties blaming the other the state of the economy, the health service, the railways and even potholes in the road. I believe it is human nature to always look to blame others for the situation which we find ourselves in. My mentor once told me that not only should we be responsible for our actions but also be “response able”. The ability to respond to whatever comes our way in a rational manner is a difficult task to manage as we often don’t consciously choose our response, we react instead, and then we blame others for our reaction. We need to recognise that these are our responses for which we, and no one else, are responsible, as I often point out to Mrs Rowe when she burns the dinner and blames me.
In our working lives we often find ourselves in jobs and situations and wonder how we have ended up where we have. It is quite surprising when I tell people that the sum of everything they have is as a result of a the sum of all the choices that they have ever made. For some there is a light bulb moment when they realise that, for the most cases, they can no longer blame anyone else for the situation they now find themselves in. As a Project Manager when I look at the status of the project and the issues that arise, it is often difficult to shoulder the responsibility and not look to blame some other external factor. I may have quoted this before, but as Jim Rohn once said “Don’t wish it was easier wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge wish for more wisdom”. But whatever you do and feel, I suggest that you never tell your partner that you should have married a cook (or suggest that salad may have been a better option), as you will be responsible for whatever comes your way!!!!
“A boil on the back of your neck is more important to you than an earthquake in China”. Dale Carnegie
In his book “how to win friends and influence people” Dale Carnegie talks of the importance of listening as he believes that the people we are listening to are a thousand times more interested in themselves and their wants than they are in you. This is one of the hardest habits to learn. How often when we listening to others are we not really listening at all, but just preparing what we plan to say next. I try and practice this habit as much as I can, as surprisingly the art of just listening to people can have a much more positive influence on them than from someone who always has an opinion to offer. I have learned through my own experiences that those around us just yearn to be heard and to be listened to even if we don’t always feel that we have all the answers.
In my project this week we have arrived at a point where there are lots going in our favour and some things which are not. As Project Managers it is a fundamental part of our role to make sure we listen to those in the team and take prompt and appropriate action when the voices of concern and consent become far too loud to ignore. I am hoping that I have not left it too late and that the clear action plan we have put in place will have the desired effect. It would be completely inappropriate to make any comparisons with what has happened in West London this week and the comparatively insignificant decisions that we have to make at work each day, but events wherever and whatever they are should always serve to remind us that we can always be a lot better at what we do than we sometimes are.
“There’s an interdependence between flowers and bees. Where there are no flowers there are no bees, and where there are no bees, there are no flowers. They are really one organism. And so in the same way, everything ………depends on everything else.” Alan Watts
Whist I sat on the beach on holiday last week I looked up and saw a small boy playing in a stream. He had a toy boat which he was trying to float, but he needed to make a dam to create a pool deep enough for it to float on. He could not do this on his own, he needed the help of others. He called out for help and worked with them to shovel sand to try and stop the stream, but the stream was too strong and washed the sand away. His father came along and started to deposit rocks against which the boy and his friends placed the sand. Before too long a whole team of small children and parents were working together to complete the dam and create the pool which was big enough not only to float the boat but for many children to play and paddle in too.
At times, as a PM (Project Manager), I feel like the small boy who wants to float his. Stephen Covey in his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about the progression from our dependence on others, to our own independence, where we believe that we don’t need the help of anyone, to an understanding that there we have a fundamental interdependence on each other and a mutual reliance on one another to achieve our common goals. This week it has felt that we have all wanted to go off in our own direction, confident in our ability to meet our specific deliverable, but not pulling together as a collective unit and not understanding the reliance we have each other. I am pleased that it didn’t take too long to understand our situation and, as we reach the end of the week, it now feels that we are a little more in control. It is a complete coincidence that I started to write this well before the election result of today, where as a PM (Prime Minister) Mrs May now finds herself in the exact same position, but on a much larger and unenviable scale. Whether we are that small boy in the stream, a Project Manager or a Prime Minister, I hope we can always count on the support of others and remain willing to offer that same help to others when they call out to us…….