To thine own self be true

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To Thine Own Self Be True

Harry Tucker Matawan, New Jersey, USA

Any of us who have traveled on commercial aircraft remember that during the safety demonstration, we are taught to put our oxygen mask on first, and then to assist an elderly person or child with their mask. If we struggle to put their mask on before ours, we may succumb to oxygen deprivation before getting their mask on, and we all die. By putting ours on quickly, we are empowered to put 100% effort into taking care of others and everyone lives.

I have witnessed many wonderful projects collapse over the years, even though the perfect storm of success was at the feet of those involved. The projects in question had:

• Unlimited market potential.

• A superior product.

• An empowered team enabled with phenomenal capability.

However, the project manager had lost control of his/her self and, therefore, could not take care of the team. The opportunity died of oxygen deprivation, so to speak, and the project failed.

In order to manage or lead teams (and there are sharp differences), software project managers need to be in complete control of themselves. They must have a strong understanding of their own personal purpose, vision, mission, as well as personal and professional goals. When a solid personal life structure is in place, the manager’s life is empowered. Without such empowerment, the manager is easily swept away by the challenges of living (both inside and outside the office). Then, an otherwise intelligent, talented manager loses focuses on the management tasks at hand.

When that happens, various symptoms start to appear, one cascading upon the next.

• The manager becomes visibly distracted and starts to feel out of control,

• Not feeling in control, he/she doesn’t feel empowered to stand up and do what is needed to protect the project,

• The unprotected team starts to experience communication breakdowns,

• Communication breakdowns lead to slipped (not aligned with the original project baseline) tasks,

• Slipped tasks, and a manager unable to bring things back under control, lead to team despair,

• Team morale fails, adding additional complexity to a project that is already out of control.

I personally take time on a daily, weekly, and semi-annual basis to review where I am in my life. My daily and weekly reviews help me keep on track as far as short term goals are concerned. My semi-annual retreat (white space planning as some people call it) provides me with an opportunity to assess my long term goals, personally and professionally, to make sure I am still on track.

While life will always throw curveballs at all of us, having short and long term goals helps provide us with targets that help us realign our personal and professional course after the turbulence has passed. With such a plan in hand, we are enabled to focus more on the tasks at hand, including managing our teams, to empower them towards success.

The oxygen masks have fallen – who are you helping first?

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