This completes thoughts expressed in a post September 15, 2010 at JimMillikenProject.blogspot.com
A world-famous pianist did one of those luncheon events for well-off people.
After he had played, the situation called for a meet-and-greet period. One person grasped the pianist's arm and gushed: "I'd give anything to play as well as you do!"
The pianist responded: "No, you wouldn't. If you'd give anything, you'd practice eight hours a day, every day, as I still do, even after all these years."
There were similar stories about Larry Bird, the legendary Basketball Hall of Fame star of the Boston Celtics. Bird was a fine athlete, but he had no particular specific talent. He was, though, exceptional at two habits of discipline: One was a constant alertness to where everyone on the court was at any moment during a game. The other was a commitment to countless hours of practice on the court, often all by himself, day after day, throughout his career. He made the most of what he had. He worked at it, with extraordinary persistence.
So what does this say for us who examine project leadership?
At base, we have to decide how important it is. Do I really want to be a leader, or would a solid worker-bee slot on a worthwhile project be my satisfactory place in life? Nothing wrong with that, at all. In fact, that's where most of us will provide good value throughout our working lives.
If you yearn for the personal rewards of successful leadership, on the other hand, you have some decisions to make.
First off, don't kid yourself that it will be easy. Or that a good sales pitch will do it for you, with your management, your client or your team. Or even that a solid record and an honest commitment are enough. Your best decision may be the simple acknowledgement that you can honestly commit yourself to being a good lieutenant or a solid spear-carrier.
But, if project leadership is your desire, be serious with yourself. The skill sets to make it happen are both internal to your daily behavior and in the actions you employ moment-to-moment throughout your interactions with all the people you encounter.
Everything you want is in the hands of someone else. If you already have it, you have it so you don't have to want it. If you don't have it, you must convince someone to give it to you.
That's the essence of your challenge as a project manager. All the diverse people involved in or connected in some way to the project must do what you want them to do if the project is to succeed. As the salesperson-in-chief of the project, you must understand your prospects well enough to know how to present them with reasons to contribute.
Why should they?
To start with, they must see a value in doing what you want because they have come to believe responding to you will pay off for them in ways that matter to them. You have invested the time and effort to learn those values in the people you are working with.
Secondly, they must be convinced you actually will provide the value you promised them. If the promise is not sufficient, they won't act. If the payoff is inadequate, they'll abandon you, and they won't come back.
So you must learn how to consistently employ and sharpen your skills of personal productivity to make yourself respected, and you must develop and exercise the skills of delegation and persuasion to motivate others to predictably and autonomously carry out their assigned parts.
The personal-internal part of the process is getting your act together, establishing intent and pursuing it in preparation, practice and performance, without letup.
The relationship-external part is focusing on the consistent actions that convince people you will help them achieve their most valued desires in this project, in their jobs, their careers and their lives.
All of this can be identified, examined, learned, practiced and perfected. What gets you to success as a project manager is results - hard, measurable results. You need to keep your eye on the ball. If you're lucky enough to have those moments of adulation, never forget how rapidly they evaporate.You need to know what's really important to you, and you need to specify it and go after it. Stubbornly. Leadership. It's simple, but it's not easy.