I firmly believe that anything worth doing is going to be hard and being a great Project Manager is really, stinking difficult. Creating timelines, tracking progress, running meetings, and doing all the standard stuff is not necessarily hard. Tedious, sure. Challenging, sometimes. The hard part stuff is all the undefined and undocumented stuff great Project Managers do, but Task Managers do not. (TMs are what I call PMs with the title but not the acumen.) Great PMs have a huge sense of personal responsibility for making sure the team does the best they can, all the time. Great PMs shield the execution team from all the noise and criticism that could slow them down. Great PMs have the respect of their team and their stakeholders. They don’t take this respect for granted once earned, but constantly work at keeping it. Great PMs do NOT always meet time, cost, and scope expectations. Great PMs fail in these traditional metrics because they are the ones asked to lead the projects with the difficult team members, the unreasonable stakeholders, or the toughest schedules.
As I mentioned, being a great PM is hard. The inevitable side effect of doing something hard, is pain. When leading a project, there is a desire to be strong and appear to have complete control, but this leaves us alone in our struggles and pains. We bury the anguish all day only to vent to love ones, or require too much wine with dinner. OK – maybe that’s what I do…
Sometimes the pain is good, like soreness after a workout that lets you know you’re getting stronger. Sometimes the pain is bad, like an injury that will set you back. It can be pretty clear when physical pain is from an injury, but it’s tougher with psychological pain. This is why we need therapists, or in this space, mentors. Mentors can help us know if we are setting ourselves up for injury or they can help us recover after we already stumbled.
I use my experience to coach a few select people with the drive, talent, and passion it takes to be great. I often remind them (and myself) that this career is supposed to be hard. Finding the work difficult reminds us that we are probably doing something right. If it feels easy, we probably aren’t pushing ourselves hard enough. If we feel damaged, we are probably pushing ourselves too hard. It is ok to need help with finding the right balance and it’s ok to need help getting up from a bad fall.