The Soul of a Project #32: Humility, Courage and Discipline

by Gary Monti on January 23, 2013

humility courage discipline“What do I do when overwhelmed and projects pull me in several directions?” That is a common question. The short answer is, “Practice humility, courage, and discipline.”

Humility is simply appreciating where the boundary is between what I can do and what I can’t do. When on the “can” side get to work focusing on success. When on the “can’t” side see if help is available within the time frame required. If that help isn’t available then it is time to either cut scope or extend the schedule. Another way to state humility is, “I have a place in the universe; it just isn’t at the center.”

Courage is risking action (or being still) when there are no guarantees the desired outcome will be achieved. This doesn’t mean the outcome can’t be achieved. Rather, it is about breaking into new territory and getting away from “same-old, same-old” behavior. Courage can also mean taking action when there are insufficient resources and attempting to get political movement by pushing on power brokers.

For example, risking building a prototype of a product you just KNOW the client will want and doing this BEFORE there is any commitment. “Taking a calculated risk,” might be another way to describe the exercise of courage. Keep in mind; this is different than being foolhardy.  When someone is foolhardy they throw caution to the wind. With foolhardy, think of the firm with no depth that mastered PowerPoint and then was at a loss as to what to do once they win the contract.

Discipline is what brings it all together. There are two ways to define discipline and both are relevant. The first definition is: know your area of expertise and how best to apply it. Practice, practice, practice.

The second definition ties back into humility. You must be able to maintain a sharp focus and broad view simultaneously. Imagine you are a surgeon and want to save the patient. The decision as to whether or not to operate goes beyond your ability with the surgical techniques. It is critical to consider whether or not the patient might die while under anesthetic.

This all adds up to wisdom, the ability to find a balance point among all the principles when the rules are either absent or fail to point in a clear direction. There’s an old saying that sums the challenge of the situation well, “Success comes from experience which comes from failure.” There are no guarantees but without trying you’ll never know. Remember to breathe and take a calculated risk.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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