Being the Eye of the Storm

One of my very favorite quotes is by W. Edwards Deming: “Nothing changes without personal transformation.” Some years ago a colleague, on one of the projects I was managing at the time, commented that no matter what kind of chaos was going on around me I remained calm, cool and collected…that I was like the eye of the storm. The colleague wanted to know if I had ever noticed the positive impact that calm certainty had on the people around me…my team, my clients, and other stakeholders, and the tremendous loyalty it garnered. To be honest, I hadn’t. It had just always been that way, and when it had been pointed out before, I hadn’t really paid attention. I guess we really do only hear things when we are ready to hear them. So could sustaining a calm certainty really result in increased loyalty or was there more to it than that?

Fast forward and I’m managing a project that quickly became known as the project from hell. Everything and anything that could go wrong did so with what seemed like alarming alacrity. It all worked out in the end but I very nearly burned out, my health did suffer, and somewhere along the way, for a time, I lost that calm certainty. Things in my life didn’t go as well as they usually did and people’s behavior towards me changed. Then it all changed back when I recovered. It was, I think, only then that I really ‘got’ what Deming meant.

I’ve spent a lot of time, energy, and quite a chunk of change discovering the strategies, tools, and techniques I and others use to remain ‘the eye of the storm’ when stuff happens, (and stuff does happen) and what it takes to earn the loyalty of those around you.

Why is all this important? Well, I believe that project management is all about people, as well as systems and processes, and to truly be an effective project manager requires being an effective leader and vice versa. Dale Carnegie pointed out that: “Even in such technical lines as engineering, about 15% of one’s financial success is due one’s technical knowledge and about 85% is due to skill in human engineering, to personality and the ability to lead people.” I also believe that to master management and leadership of others requires us to first master self-management and self-leadership.

So what do you believe?

Comments 1

  1. Wise words, Frances!

    I have noticed that many of my career transition clients put a high priority on their preference to work in an organizational culture that has a heart, that cares about the human factor. So many have had the opposite experience and have no desire to get into such a situation again. The best leadership comes from those who have worked on developing their self management skills thereby gaining valuable insights into what it takes to effectively manage others.

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