I've observed scores of project managers through the years. Some manage projects with no input from others. Others are not afraid of asking for project management advice. How about you?
Have you ever been lost without a GPS or map? Not sure where you are or how to get to where you want to be? I've been there. It's nerve-racking and embarrassing, particularly if you have passengers.
So, what's the wise thing to do? Ask for directions, right? Find the path that leads to your destination.
But some people fail to do this in projects. Are you a lone ranger? You know the guy or gal who needs no input from others.
Are You a Lone Ranger?
One response I sometimes get when I encourage project managers to seek advice is, "Well, I'm the project manager. How I manage this project is no one else's business."
I've had some project managers tell me about their Project Management Professional (PMP) designation or about how they've started two Project Management Offices or how they've been managing projects more than 15 years.
I'm glad for their strong backgrounds and credentials, but it concerns me when I encounter the lone ranger mindset. No matter the accomplishments or how long one has led projects, we can all benefit from wise counsel.
Furthermore, when your project goes south, it impacts other people. Your team members. Management. Customers. Your company. Vendors. Partners.
And when things go awry, you will be criticized by these same stakeholders. Since people are going to talk about you, why not invite them to talk to you before you make your project decisions.
Here's what I know. When you realize that you made poor decisions, who will you likely go to for advice? Who are you gonna call?
Answer: It's not Ghostbusters. People often seek out the very people they chose to ignore earlier in their projects.
Seeking Advice From Peers
There's another class of project managers that are a step ahead of the lone rangers. When these people get stuck, they dial a friend.
Bill talks to his peer Linda. Bill and Linda both were hired the same year and both have two years of experience in project management. They are good friends and have relied on each other for advice.
Think about it. This is like one neighbor asking another neighbor for advice on investing when both have little knowledge and experience in the first place. It's not a bad thing. It's just not the best.
In contrast, other project managers have discovered the gold mine of seasoned and experienced project managers.
"Never take advice from people who aren't getting the results you want to experience." -Michael Hyatt
Seeking Advice From Experienced Project Managers
Why seek advice from experienced project managers? Well, these experienced project managers have been down the road many times. They have a perspective on things that is gained only through the school of hard knocks. These seasoned individuals can answer your toughest questions.
Politics. Difficult team members. Unengaged project sponsors. Unrealistic expectations from management. They've dealt with it all. Not once, but many times.
So, when's the best time to seek advice? Yes, you can ask for help when issues occur. Better yet, get their insights earlier when planning and considering significant project decisions.
From whom should we receive advice? Seek experienced individuals in your industry as well as those who are getting the results you want. Why talk to a financial advisor who is broke? Likewise, why seek advice from a project manager who rarely completes a project on budget and on time?
Another point, consider the possibility of talking to more than one person. In some cases, I've asked two or three seasoned individuals to meet together with me. The interaction provided insights that I would not have heard otherwise.
"Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed." Proverbs 15:22
Never Stop Learning and Teaching
Take some time today to think about your projects. What is one area where you would benefit from the input of others? Ask an experienced project manager if you may buy them a cup of coffee and get their advice concerning a challenge you've encountered. Many individuals will be flattered and happy to help.
But there's another side of this coin. No matter how long you've been managing projects, you have experience too (more than others who are just starting). Offer to share your knowledge and experience. Whenever you teach others, you reinforce what you've learned for yourself. Pay it forward!
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"Intelligent leadership, creative communication and depth of technical skill all describe Harry Hall." –John Bartuska, Director of HR–ONUG Communications