If there is one thing that can be considered more necessary than building up your communication skills while trying to be a project manager, it has to be training your mind.
It’s the powerhouse, the inner core strength that will take you distances. When untrained, it’s the one that will be responsible for your downfall, the slips in your speech, one wrong action and the oops- you have done it again!
Train your mind by:
Reading more- Reading should not be limited to project management related books/articles only, don’t restrict yourself. Read anything catches your attention, browse through book stores often. You benefit by having a larger base of knowledge that will help you be much more innovative. Understand psychology or strategy - whatever gets your attention.
Toughest of times- It will be hard, it has to. But this is where you will hone your skill for the best. Staying composed in the most difficult of times will earn you that extra brownie later. Train yourself to find ways to soothe your nerves, vent out creatively and use that bursts of energy to re-channelize in something more positive- a way to get out of it. I jot down my problems and work it off like a puzzle. When I am too involved in the problem and can't think straight, I just sleep as much as I can for the next two days and I pick up the problem again later and to my surprise the intensity has weared off.
Be wise and bold- Use your opportunities wisely, be prepared. You never know when the opportunity will come and when it does, you shouldn’t have to pass. When I was learning to drive, a friend of mine told me something that I’ll never forget- never look at the car before you, always look two cars ahead; that way you know what will happen ahead of your time and you will be prepared. Work smart and get to know people.
Blow your own trumpet- If its all show and no work, this will not work. If you are really putting effort into something and doing well, make sure others know about it. You don’t have to be a snob, just make sure people are aware so you are in mind when they schedule the next resource for the special project. I put it mildly, I tell my Project Manager- Thank you for allowing me to do this, I really learnt a lot and if you are interested and have the time; this is what I did (show your work/email the matter).
Persistence will pay off- How long can you hold on to your dreams? More closer you are to achieving it the harder it gets. Train yourself, so you don’t disintegrate during the tough times. Diversify the energy, stay calm and be confident in your abilities. It helps me to read books I have been waiting to read or watch movies which inspire me a lot.
Build your confidence- There’s nothing like it. More you know about projects or the inner details of your scope of work, more confident you become. Get external help, talk to people with same job profiles, have as much as information you possibly can. Never be complacent about your job, there’s always something more.
Be Calm- Tough cookie to crack if you can master this. Everyone will tell you including your project manager with 20 years of experience that this is the toughest to achieve. This will differentiate the ready from the naïve. Pressure, conflicts, internal politics, work load, more responsibility, deadlines, miscalculations- nothing can wash of the calm from your face. Think deeply, find your strengths and weaknesses and work extra hours to know yourself. What triggers you and what you can do to stop reacting immediately? For me personally, I have tried to stretch out my reaction time. If I am mad, I write the email and let it sleep over night. I come back next morning and read the email over and over again , edit it and in some cases even delete it. Dont burn bridges, world's too small. Like one of my favorite professor told me- learn to keep a poker face, thats what my professor told me.
While I have been running around for the last few days for some work (one of the reasons I haven’t been able to blog much), there’s something new I recently started.
It’s the Red Diary.
It’s really red and in China considered an auspicious color. A gift that was completely sidelined for long. It was stacked away with my folders and bunch of papers; waiting to be used for something special.
Then it just happened.
This weekend I bought a couple of good reads- Cold Steel by Tim Bouquet and Byron Ousey- the book about steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittals battle with Arcellor and The Making of Barrack Obama by Richard Wolffe.
Cold Steel is a gripping read, the hugeness of which can lead to sleepless nights thinking about the force behind it, the power of the strategies and most importantly the urge to do something on such a huge scale can blow your sleep to a thousand glittering stars.
That’s what happened.
Sometimes a powerful thought will come to you that you want to hold on to. That’s what you do with your Red Diary.
It’s the diary of your dream that you will need to reach your goals. It’s the awestruck moment captured in words, mesmerized by innovation and ideas. This is your true raw essence of thoughts, uncensored and the pure you in the most inspirational of moments captured.
- My first name- isn’t Soma, its Somashree
- My first childhood ambition- was to be a teacher
- I have never been drunk in my life
- I have double Masters’ degree- in English Literature and Mass Communication
- My one wish I always come back to but never happens- Write a novel
- I crave French fries when I am sad or happy
- I’m a self converted “almost” vegetarian for the last few months (I still eat fish and once in a while meat quite a turn around from the carnivore that I was!)
- When I was in college, I tried almost every single hair cut from a catalogue at the local hair salon till they told me I had to grow my hair to an extent to try another!
- I love action movies, my favorite- Die Hard
- If I had all the money in the world, I would only travel.
- Surprises- Good ones of course I adore
- My wallet is a storehouse of my favorite quotations handwritten and printed and a Sears Tower imprint on a dime.
- I always pack lunch for work
- I love fresh flowers, specially white- it’s my pick me up
- I usually research the restaurant that I want to eat at- I look for reviews, recommendations from friends, pictures, menu, specialty etc.
- I used to collect pens in all colors and styles. I gave that up because I don’t write as much now (with pen and paper that is).
- I had my turning points in life when I read English August by Upmanyu Chatterjee at 19 and Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar at 22 (both are novels).
- My best friend is far from the corporate life I live everyday, has an adorable kid and outwits me every time.
- Last book I read was “First Things First” by Stephen Covey and “Meditation” by …cant remember the name, check back if you want the details.
- My office purse is a black colored slightly oversized bag with must haves- pen, white notepad, 2 lipsticks (from Maybelline and Revlon), lip gloss from Body Shop, brown leather wallet, cell phone, a book, keys, a hair clip, comb, pen drive, chap stick.
- Enter office- always on time. You want be noticed for your punctuality. Caught in traffic- call office and inform you will be 4 minutes late and is caught in traffic amidst say Michigan Avenue and State St.
Your boss or HR knows that you are specific, so chances are you are not faking it.
- Check email and plan your day- almost before anyone starts working, now you always have a head start. If you can utilize this everyday, you don’t have to stress out at 5pm
Time management is your asset, very important if you want to prove/display your skills at it and not be the one who gets spotted at the water cooler everyday.
- Get your to-do list according to the priority of delivery- you will never miss a deadline. Follow up with your team, co-workers if your delivery is dependant on someone else just to make sure they are aware of the deadline too.
On time delivery is taking the lift for the PM's office instead of the staircase. Everyone wants it on time.
- Work efficiently and learn something new as often as possible- everyone likes a perfectionist, closer the better. New skills gives you the edge and the fact that want to grow and spend your personal time and energy to acquire skills that you can use in your job environment.
Sure shot way to be noticed, can’t be missed.
- Keep your desk organized- its helps you unclutter yourself psychologically and keep the pressure off since you are not fumbling for that piece of paper you left at your desk three weeks ago.
Organized behavior is necessary for being a project manager.
- Protect your team- no questions about it. Trust can’t breed if allow them (team) to take the hit every time. However, keep the rotten apple close to you. If you can’t discard it make sure it doesn’t spread to others.
Team handling needed to get up on the charts. Responsibility is required, blaming others for work not done when you haven’t followed up or bothered reviewing is not the solution.
- Encourage others to grow- If they grow, you grow automatically. Train them to handle more responsibility, be in control, acquire better work habits and discourage slackers from taking everything for granted.
Thinking about the interest for your company and the money of your stakeholders bring in good reviews and is ethical.
- Never leave while your team is working- Don’t leave early if your teams on the deadline and working late hours. Being with your team is important, if you can’t buy them a pack of chips or burger at least being there is showing support and being together no matter what.
Your team will thank you for it and appreciate it. Next time you ask a favor, guess who’ll be there?
- Homework- Being in the comforts of your home doesn’t mean your jobs done. Work on how you can solve the pending problem or think about creative ways to allow someone else to get a second chance.
You will be more prepared for tomorrow and your planning and implementing new ideas will be recognized. Your team and management will know you appreciate your job and is looking at it as a long term stint.