Anyone who knows me well knows that I watch NCIS. It is one of the shows that I watch over and over. Although subtle, there is always a leadership lesson in the show. Sometimes, it is as simple as referring to the list of Gibbs’ rules. Everyone knows what the rules are. In fact, there is an iPad application so the rules are at your fingertips. There is also a plethora of fun stuff such as mugs, shirts and other cool goodies that you can purchase with your favourite saying.
There are two entries for rule number 3. The one that resonates is from Franks “don’t believe what you are told, double-check.” I would expand it a little. Don’t believe what you are told, what you see, and what you read. Double-check everything.
I thought it would be fun, in fact interesting, to start a list of Alchemist Rules that apply to the world of leadership and project management. After all, what is a compulsive project manager to do on a Saturday afternoon in a hotel room in a blizzard?
I have been a project manager for many years. In fact, I have been a one for more years than I care to remember. I have worked with some wonderful people and each of them has contributed to the list of rules over the years.
So here goes, the first of three rules.
Rule 25: You only get answers to 100% of the questions that you ask. Early in my career, I worked with a great project manager named John Fraser. John was a very pragmatic man. We were working on a project implementing new technology for a retail organization. He was chairing a team meeting. The team was at the table discussing all the things that we didn’t know. He asked us if we had contacted the vendor and asked our questions. Then, he said, “They can’t answer what you don’t ask.” There was dead silence in the room. John was completely right. One should never make assumptions without checking with the source. If you never ask the question, you will never get an answer, even if the answer is I don’t know, I don’t care or No.
Rule 26: If you don’t like the answer, accept it and move on. Over the last week, I have been more exposed than at any time in my life. As a project manager, you are paid to answer the questions that are asked even if the answer isn’t popular. In my career, I have worked with stakeholder who didn’t like the answer and spent an inordinate amount of time asking the same question in hopes of a new or different answer. Unfortunately, life is like that. You will never get the answers you want to all the questions you ask. I always tell my team that they don’t have to like the answer but it is the answer to your question. Asking the same questions repeatedly won’t get you a different answer. Accept it and move on. To quote one of my team, “It is what it is.”
Rule 35: You will never know everything I think and I don’t have to tell you, get over it. In fact, sometimes it is safer that way. I tend to call a spade a shovel and let it go. Life is too short to worry about what people think about you or what you think about them. I spent a few hours with my mentor. He is a really cool human being. His first questions were “are you okay and did you tell them everything that you were thinking in the moment.” My reply was “H*** NO, I haven’t told them what I thought yet this week.” He laughed and said “Good. You are learning.” We talked about my opinions and what I had learned. My response was “that you will never know everything that I think. It would be safer that way.” His reply was “I’ll get over it. In fact, I won’t own it either.” He is a very wise man. I think he is a cross between Yoda® and Sun Tzu. He is always the pragmatist.
Over the last week or so, my family has been placed in the position of defending my honour and for that I thank them. They are very cool people and they rock!
For the rest of you that were and continue to be supportive, you rock!
For all of you that didn’t, start at rule 25, work your way through rule 26 and then take rule 35 to heart.
As events present themselves, I will add to the rules. Have a great weekend. If you are in the mid-western part of Canada and the US, please stay indoors and safe.
“He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask is a fool forever.” Chinese proverb