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A project that could save your life

Adeline Teoh ed.
December 15, 2014

If you’ve ever flown on a commercial airline you may recall the safety demonstration refrain about oxygen masks: “If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.”

I don’t know about you, but in those sorts of situations I’m incredibly obedient and it’s probably a good thing this instruction is etched into my brain because I fear I might be the kind of person who would help someone else first before ensuring I could breathe freely. This instruction exists for a reason and it’s not about making people selfish, it’s about survival. It may require some candour to point it out: it is very hard to be of any sustainable help when you yourself are dying. I’ll stop being dramatic because I think you know my point is ‘don’t forget to look after yourself’.

As a project manager you’re in the centre of things; you’re the conduit between multiple stakeholders and you’re the one responsible for tracking the project’s progress, you’re the firefighter and the peacemaker, the listener and the leader. In a role like this it’s very easy to lose yourself in activities and tasks, and in other people. These holidays, remember to take a moment to assess how you are feeling, how you are tracking, what your needs are. Here’s why:

1. You’re an important asset

The words ‘human capital’ might seem a little cold at first but when you tally up the assets in any project, much of it is in people: your team—their skills, knowledge and abilities—and influential stakeholders, like your sponsor or client. Project managers are typically self-effacing so you’d be forgiven for forgetting one of the most important assets—yourself. A happy, healthy is an asset to a project team compared with the alternative.

2. Teams follow the leader

As a leader, you set the tone for the rest of the team. Team members will often consciously or subconsciously mimic the leader’s behaviour: if you work long hours every day, they will too; if you can’t say ‘no’ to being given more to do, they will find it difficult; if you frequently skip meetings or miss deadlines, you’ll find they will normalise this behaviour. So, how do you want your team to behave? Look after yourself and you’ll find the team will start to look after itself.

3. You need the stamina

I’m not saying you should neglect others in order to serve yourself, but I am telling you to make sure you are paying sufficient attention to your physical and mental health. It turns out that giving people are better at giving if they come from a stable place. Look after your foundations and the rest will follow.

What checks do you perform to make sure you’re at your best?

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Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of ProjectManager.com.au. She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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