First, I would like to get two things straight:
- I’m a grown ass man
- I don’t know shit about project management
Okay, let me get one more thing across here: one of these two statements is a lie.
You see, I’m a person that has always just done things when and how I wanted. Time to go to a theme park? Let’s just go! Ready to hit the club? Get dressed and let’s do this.
My friends, however, like to plan things out, which always confused me. Why couldn’t everyone just be like me and go with the flow? Sure, the results weren’t always phenomenal, but at least we did something.
I never knew what organization was until I met my wife. She knows what organization is all about. I’ve never seen somebody take a closet with zero space and turn it into a sound studio for her organizationally-challenged husband.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this is where I talk about how project management is all about organization. But while organization does play a role, that isn’t what I am going to talk about. So, stop what you’re thinking and focus.
Actually, let’s stop talking about my wife for a second and go back to take a look at all the people I dated in the past. I would say my success ratio with regard to dating and relationships is hovering around 3%. That means of the people I’ve been involved with, I had a good relationship with 3% of them. The other 97% were complete failures.
If you asked me why that was the case, five years ago I’d have given you a completely different answer. Today, I am going to tell you: most of those relationships failed because I lacked empathy. I didn’t even try to compromise because I wholeheartedly believed that if a woman didn’t understand my needs or why I did things the way I did, then she didn’t understand me. If she didn’t understand me, then this thing wasn’t going to work.
The funny thing about this line of thinking is that every single woman I’ve dated has tried to reach out and understand me. ‘Why should I try to explain myself,’ I’d think. ‘The right woman will just get me.’ I’d think worse if I had taken the time to explain myself: ‘Why do I need to explain things all over again?’
To me, relationships were meant to be fun. I didn’t have time to get bogged down with talks about trying to understand the woman I was seeing. I’d just figure: ‘Time to move onto the next one…’
Even Peter Pan had to grow up
Thankfully, I grew up a little bit. This was by no means a fast process. At one point, I was grappling with loneliness—a feeling I’d never felt before. I figured this weird feeling meant I wanted some type of companionship. And embracing new companionship meant exploring why past companionships hadn’t worked out. After a ton of thinking, I began to realize these patterns were happening because I wasn’t open to doing things any other way but mine, and for me to stop being lonely, I needed to change. I knew my wife for the better part of eight years before my brain finally kicked in with some common sense.
A relationship with your wife can be great when you take the time to talk to each other about how you view the world. Sure, at first you seem to have everything in common, but as you get to know each other you start to see the differences. The differences aren’t bad; you just need to understand them.
I always figured my job was to convince my partner to think like me, which is ridiculous when I look back at it. My real job was to understand why she saw things the way she did and to see how things shifted when I put myself in her shoes.
Once I did that, everything changed. I mean everything.
This is where I talk about project management.
[M]ost of my relationships failed because I lacked empathy. I didn’t even try to compromise because I wholeheartedly believed that if a woman didn’t understand my needs, or why I did things the way I did, then she didn’t understand me. If she didn’t understand me, then this thing wasn’t going to work.
Project management is about building relationships
Like old ideas about past relationships, I used to have the wrong idea about project management, too. I figured if you were great at organizing, then you were great at project management. But then I started to manage teams and it didn’t matter how many systems I put in place, things would eventually fall apart.
I would get frustrated and demand that my designers and developers stick to the deadlines I gave them. If they couldn’t stick to them, then I assumed maybe they weren’t fit for their jobs. Not once did I take the time to understand—or even simply ask them—why they weren’t meeting their deadlines.
- Were the deadlines unrealistic?
- Did a bug appear that set the team back?
- Were they going through a bad breakup?
It could have been any number of things. We view a project as an inanimate object and, I think, at some point, we view the people that work on these projects as inanimate objects as well. But, they aren’t. They are people. They go through the same shit we go through. We can easily get frustrated running a project, but what about the other people involved?
- The designer is frustrated because they don’t have all the right assets.
- The developer is frustrated because the designs aren’t complete yet.
- The account manager is frustrated because the client wants to continue to make changes after the price has been set.
Each of these people knows that, one way or another, things getting out of control will reflect badly on them. If a project misses a deadline, it falls on you—and how does that make you feel? Stressed? Agitated? Scared? How do you think that makes your team feel?
Practicing empathy leads to a clean home
I used to leave cups everywhere in my house. It drove my wife crazy and she would get upset. Me being the laid-back guy, I would always laugh and wonder why she was getting so worked up. They were just cups! But then I sat down and took the time to view the world through her eyes. When everything was clean, it meant she didn’t have to think about it. She could focus on the things she wanted, like baking dog treats or building new furniture. An act like me leaving a cup on the table meant she couldn’t focus on the things she loved. Instead, she had to worry about cleaning up after me.
That’s a shitty way to feel. I would get pretty pissed off if someone continued to interrupt what I wanted to do.
Figure out your people
Sure, you have your spreadsheets, Gantt charts, and whatever other fancy tools, but unless you understand the actual people on your team, you are facing an uphill battle. You are all in this struggle together and it’s just like marriage. Your job isn’t to get everyone on board with the same methodology or thought process. Your job is to figure out how to make everyone’s lives easier.
Once you do that, everything else just seems to fall into place. So pick up your cups and get out of your own damn shoes and into someone else’s.
I’m a grown ass man
I don’t know shit about project management
Like I said, one of these two statements is a lie.