Why I put a ring on it: The 3Cs of Project Management - Courage
Over the years, I’ve been asked how and why project management became my life’s work. It
was not intentional. I learned to fall in love with the work I do. I’ve made a commitment because of the 3Cs of what project management has done for me. Courage, the third and final C of project management has helped me develop the tough skin I need to navigate difficult and sometimes, scary situations.
What is courage?
Despite popular belief, courage is not the absence of fear. Conversely, it’s pushing through even when you’re feeling scared. The dictionary defines courage simply as, “the ability to do something that frightens one.” It’s easy to confuse courage with confidence and while they are interrelated, they are not the same. Confidence is a feeling of “self-assurance or appreciation of your own abilities.” I do believe confidence is necessary to push forward courageously. You need to have enough confidence in yourself to step out of your comfort zone. The two work together.
As project managers, we lead the project and we set the tone for how everything is going to move forward. Unfortunately, leading also means you sometimes have to make unpopular decisions. This can be difficult because everyone wants to be liked, right? Who wants to rock the boat by making a decision that will make you unpopular?
This takes courage.
Here's what courage means to me.
Courage to speak up.
We have to be willing to speak up. I’d like to share a simple example that many of us may have overlooked in past projects. There was a client who thought it was okay to mispronounce people’s names as if we didn’t matter. One day she called me Kristi, and added, "or whatever your name is."
I smiled and said, “It’s Crystal. Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty.”
Yes, my boss was there and I knew I had the backing of my boss (who was jaw dropped of course), but it took a lot of courage for me to stand up and let her know I am a person with a name, and I matter.
Don’t be afraid to speak up in a situation like this. Many are willing to let it go because they see mispronouncing a name as a trivial matter, but our names are our identity. They matter. In this case, I tried to use a little humor to lighten the mood, but it still required courage for me to speak up.
Courage to have difficult conversations.
No one likes having difficult conversations. Whether it’s talking to a team member about performance or telling the client you are behind in the deadline.
It’s not easy.
The truth is, everything is not cookies and rainbows all the time. Sometimes I've had to deliver bad news. It all comes with the territory.
Courage in the Agile space.
Even with our agile projects, we encounter courageous moments.
The courage to be creative.
The courage to speak up when we need help.
The courage to take risks.
The courage to fail. It takes courage from our team and from leadership to accept that there may be failure—and to learn from that failure.
I bet you are wondering what the client said when I corrected her about my name. After clutching her pearls, she laughed profusely and apologized.
Moving forward, she always called me by my correct name: Ms. Jackson.
You can’t win them all.
The point is to have the courage to step up and speak up when the situation calls for it.
“Courage is being the only one who knows how terrified you are.” - Unknown
I’d love to hear your stories. When was a time you had to show courage on a project? How did the client or other party respond to your courageous leadership?