Project Leadership – Thinking beyond the Project
As we kick off 2021 – things continue to be different and challenging, but some things remain the same and unchanged. Especially in my world of organizational growth and development. Especially when it comes to leadership.
I have been delivering a Project Leadership Program with Rose Hastreiter from L3C, and we have been fielding a lot of questions from participants through the three day program. But one question that stood out for us recently was: “Given all the adaptations, constraints, and expectations many organizations and stakeholders have, how does one dial into the “right” mindset for project success? What approach will bring the most value for each part of the organizational ecosystem?”
As organizational advisors, we know all too well how important the choice of mindset is. How we choose to set our attitude has direct impacts on relationships, communication, focus, and follow-through. For project teams, it helps inform the details. For project leaders, our mindset becomes our key interface into our groups and our plans. For me, intentionally choosing my mindset, becomes a quick way for my groups to add value to any decision, and ensure the long term success and sustainability of our projects and people., we know all too well how important the choice of mindset is. How we choose to set our attitude has direct impacts on relationships, communication, focus, and follow-through. For project teams, it helps inform the details. For project leaders, our mindset becomes our key interface into our groups and our plans. For me, intentionally choosing my mindset, becomes a quick way for my groups to add value to any decision, and ensure the long term success and sustainability of our projects and people.
When I think about mindset, I think about beliefs, attitude, habits or and even – perspective. Because that is what life is – in my humble opinion – all about, perspective. The way we look at things around us, coming at us, beside us or past us. The way we see things is where we live from. Perspectives guides all our choices. Determines the impact of our relationships. And definitely plays a role in how we handle conflict or challenge. Depending on your experience with projects – you may be aware that the truly effective project management requires a solid foundation in leadership. So a first step to “dial into the right mindset” is to have a clear perspective and understanding of our roles as a leader. And that perspective must embody all levels of leadership – in mind, in communication, and in action. But of all three, it is our leadership mindset that is most critical, yet most often over looked.
Why Perspective Matters
Perspective is critical because it is our “mind’s eye” and consciously and unconsciously impacts how we look at our personal and work landscapes. Those landscapes are all the projects we are working on; or the plans we are putting together; the conversations we are having and the ones we need to have.
And as I look at the initiatives I have worked on over the years, I have learned that there is a “perspective” that is missing for planning and projects to be truly impactful. I am not saying that you or others have not considered this, but I find that it is a huge missing in project management and project leadership.
One thing I enjoy about holidays is my perspective. It’s not necessarily less busy, but I usually enjoy a slower work pace, I get a chance to catch up with friends and family, ease up on my projects, and take a step back. For me, it helps me see life from a different perspective. A chance to look through at the world with a different pair of glasses. And to think beyond the project, is one of the most valuable set of mindset glasses I try and look through each day. These four words help me step back and take a look at any project on the board, and beyond the end date.
Here’s one mindset that we believe will add value while navigating your multiple projects this year: Think beyond the project.
It is the mindset of thinking beyond the project – T.B.T.P. For those well versed in project management lingo, we know that an effective project has a beginning and an end. Going out for a run – as part of your exercise regime to stay fit – is not a project. But even though we train for and then compete in the marathon – how would things be different if we thought beyond the project? Imagine what that would look like and what this type of thinking could allow for?
So to get your thinking started, consider these 4 questions to help you create a “thinking beyond the project” mindset:
“The way we do things around here”. Thinking culture is leadership legacy in action – what will be left behind after we leave. Although the project itself may be finite, there is great power and reward in operating in a way that has a positive impact on what happens to those involved when the project is wrapped up. Think about great teams you have worked on, and you know what I am talking about. What are the behaviours, conversations and interactions that you want the project to have and be guided by. When you put all of these together you have your culture.
How will this help us strengthen our team and stakeholder relationships? Is it really worth the detailed effort to this level of quality? Why? A direct value is something we can measure against the results of the project, whereas the indirect value needs to be discussed and measured too.
Taking the time to think about your communication and the team’s (project, group or department) communication is really simple: it is not what you communicate, but also how we communicate – that is important to success (one of the life’s maxims that I believe will never change). Will your communications be autocratic and your voice is the only one that matters? Or will you choose more of a laissez-faire approach? Will you ensure everyone gets a voice throughout the project or will you just focus on your most important stakeholders?
How will this help others authentically want to work with us in the future? How will any of these processes or methods be used outside of this project? If we decide to spend time and effort on a new project report for example, can this report be used across other types of projects? Are we adding value to the future of our teams and our organizations?
The challenge is determining the best choice based on your focus – project, SMART goal, or business results, but make sure that you make a choice that will show that you are thinking and communicating beyond the objectives and results of any one project.
And these four questions can actually help you make decisions when running the detail on a project. The answers can have deep impact on things like resourcing, quality and effort expectations, and most importantly, our relationships and influence on our overall organizational ecosystems. Even in the midst of a perceived or real failure, this mindset can help calibrate our teams towards the value of working through a challenge, no matter the outcome.
Key Takeaway: As we think about our organizational ecosystems we want to create, it begins with our intentional approach to our mindset, that will determine our success today, and tomorrow. If we don’t know which mindset to choose, then consider starting here: think beyond the project.