The first rule of business

It is not about you.

Project management is challenging and resources are scarce. We all need to learn this one important lesson.

Lessons from Project Management

"Life is not about you. It’s about what you do for others. The faster you are able to get over yourself, the more you can do for the people who matter most."

~ Tom Rath, It's Not About You: A Brief Guide to a Meaningful Life

Many years ago, while working for another firm, I was talking with our director regarding various concerns I had about matters within the organization. Other co-workers and clients were challenging to work with, and I found my patience at times stretched. Project management was challenging, and resources were scarce. Unexpectedly, she stopped me and said, “A lesson you need to learn is that it is not about you.” Ouch.

Her words caught me by surprise. The problem was my internalizing of what was occurring around me. It was hard medicine to swallow, but as I’ve pondered her guidance, I can see the relevance to the conversation we had and its broader application in business and daily life. Often things we don’t like about the organizations we work for, or perhaps even the people, have nothing to do with us individually. It really is not about you, and learning this lesson can be a powerful way to handle stressful situations and people.

A lesson to learn over time is that there is often very little you can do to make someone like you. They either do or they don’t, based on any given number of events occurring in their life. As a Project Management you will quickly learn, someone expressing frustration toward you is often the result of pain and frustration they are feeling, not the result of your actions.

When a client really lays into you unexpectedly, instead of going into defense mode, consider the possibility that there are lots of other things going on in their life right now. That’s not an excuse for the bad behavior, and poor or unacceptable behavior should be called out. But realize that it very well may not have been something you did. Your client’s behavior is an outward expression of countless other things occurring in their life, only a few of which you may be able to control. Working to understand their perspective without allowing their issues to control your emotions will work wonders and help you facilitate a speedy resolution. It is not about you.

Our company works with end users on a daily basis providing IT and Project Management support, so we know how frustrating IT can be — especially when there is a deadline to meet. You sometimes have to grow thick skin to work with resource-constrained and tired end users, stressed business owners, and executives whose computer systems and networks are not working as expected. You have to acknowledge that it is not about you while you work hard to make sure it doesn’t become about you. Don’t internalize what people are saying to the extent that your emotions become defensive or compromised. Instead, try to understand the source of their pain, and let your clients see that you are on their team and equally committed to resolving the issue at hand.

When someone is showing frustration, rather than responding with an ample amount of negative energy, consider what other areas in their life may be unraveling, and find how you can help relieve the pain they are feeling. Communication is often the most effective solution to any misunderstanding. Consider having more frequent check-in calls or account reviews with your client to help them understand that you will always be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Originally Shared on the opens in a new windowTampa Bay Business Journal