By Alexander Matthey
The dictionary defines attitude as: ‘a position of the body or manner of carrying oneself, a state of mind or a feeling, a disposition.’
Despite the definition, attitude is very difficult to express with precision as it consists of qualities and beliefs that are non-tangible. For instance, an important project team attitude is confidence. The development of a project presents tremendous challenges to a project team. An enormous amount of detail is collected, analysed, organised, and assimilated into a functional ‘whole’. Without the right attitude, it can never convert into a cohesive goal.
Attitude is a brain filter through which you experience the world. Some project managers see the world through the mind of optimism while others see life through pessimism. One can obviously find some people in the middle—not very optimistic but also not very pessimistic. Simply put, attitude is a window to project success.
We become what we think about. Self-development literature proves that our thoughts determine our actions. And our actions bring results. The project manager must believe in the success of the project from the beginning to the end to convince others.
The idea that we become what we think about has also been expressed as the Law of Dominant Thought. This means that there is a power within each of us that propels us in the direction of our current dominant thoughts. The key word here is dominant. However an infrequent positive thinking does not produce positive results. One needs to be disciplined, practice thinking positively every day until it becomes a habit.
Thoughts and ideas precede actions and when our thoughts are positive, we feel compelled to take action. We are not afraid of making some mistakes, because we know we can rectify the course. The positive belief system is the starting point for the achievement of any goal.
Do you have positive or negative thoughts? Many times what we say silently is critical and self-limiting. We create our own obstacles, e.g. “I can’t do this”. We often use those negative thoughts to express ourselves inadvertently, thus setting up our subconscious mind for failure. Instead, we should repeat to ourselves that we can and will accomplish our goals
Achieving positive thinking is a process that takes time and patience; it is not an overnight success. Positive project thinking requires effort, commitment and patience. Positive thinking does not mean absence of problems though, you will have a lot of setbacks along the way.However, if you continue to believe in yourself, you can overcome those obstacles. Remember; you are moving constantly in the direction of your dominant thoughts.
We constantly generate mental images based on our past project experiences and other events. It does not serve us to deny what happened in a previous experience, no matter how painful or disappointing.One cannot, for instance, change the fact that a manager criticised them. One can, however, alter their interpretation of the event in an attempt to learn from it.
We can create new mental pictures whenever we choose to do so. And when we develop new images that evoke powerful feelings and sensations, we will act in ways that support those new pictures.The first step is to create an image of our desired outcome, which will be interpreted as success. For example some project managers are terrified about public speaking. They see themselves standing nervously in front of the audience, not being able to speak articulately. Run these images over and over on your mental screen and you can be sure that you won’t have much success as a speaker. It is vital that you see yourself as succeeding on a consistent basis. If you are not getting the results you want, there is no question that you are holding onto pictures of mediocrity rather than success.
The key to getting what you want is the willingness to do whatever it takes to accomplish your objective. Now, before your mind jumps to conclusions, let me clarify that in saying, “whatever it takes” I exclude all actions which are illegal or unethical. So, exactly what do I mean by this “willingness”? It is a mental attitude that means that if it takes five steps to reach my goal, I’ll take those five steps, but if it takes fifty five steps to reach my goal, I’ll take those fifty five steps, and so on. To succeed, all that’s necessary is that you make a commitment to do whatever it takes, regardless of the number of steps involved.
When faced with problems or setbacks in the projects you manage, what is your immediate reaction? If you are like most people, your first impulse is to complain- “Why did this have to happen to me?”. This response is only natural. However, after the initial disappointment wears off, you have a choice to make. You can either wallow in misery or you can find the lesson that the problem is offering. You should see that a ‘problem’ is often not a problem at all. It may actually be an opportunity. For instance, a problem may point out an adjustment you can make to improve certain conditions in your project. Without the problem, you never would have taken this positive action
When was the last time you seriously thought about the words you use each and every day? Many times your words have much more power that what you can imagine. They can build a bright future, destroy opportunity or help maintain the status quo. Your words reinforce your beliefs, and your beliefs create your reality and contribute to project success. Think of this process as a row of dominos that looks like this: Thoughts –> Words –> Beliefs –> Actions –> Results.
Here is how it works. Ahmed has a thought, such as “I am not very good when it comes to project sales”. Now, let’s remember that he does not have this thought only once. He runs it through his mind on a regular basis, maybe hundreds of times. Then, Ahmed starts to use words that support this thought. He may say to his colleagues, “I am never going to do very well in sales”. Here again, Ahmed repeats these phrases over and over. This, in turn, strengthens his beliefs and it is at this stage where the rubber really hits the road. You see, everything that you will achieve in your life flows from your beliefs. So, in the sales example, Ahmed develops the belief that he is not going to be successful in project sales. This becomes embedded in his subconscious mind.
Do not underestimate the role of your words in this process. Professionals who feed themselves a steady diet of negative words are destined to have a negative attitude.
Our answer to the question: How are you? Seems like such a small thing. But we must answer that question many times every day. It is a significant part of our daily conversations. When someone asks: How are you? The answer is usually no more than a few words, yet that short response tells a lot about you and your attitude.
If you find yourself responding in the negative or neutral, I’d suggest you immediately consider revising your response and joining the ranks of the positive. When asked how you are, if you respond negatively, your physiology is adversely affected. You tend to slump your shoulders and head and take on a despondent posture. What about your emotions? After stating that you are lousy, do you feel better? Of course not. Why not instead reply “today is a good day”
Many people will be surprised at the beginning. The question is rather poetic, so the answer should be short and preferably upbeat, for the benefit of both. Try this experiment. When anyone asks, “how are you?”, respond with energy and enthusiasm. Say it with a smile. It does not matter whether or not you completely and totally feel terrific at that moment. Simply apply the act-as-if principle. In other words, if you want to be more positive, act-as-if you already are and, pretty soon, you will find that you have, in fact, become more positive.
I believe that human beings are like sponges. We soak up whatever people around us are saying. So, if you spend time with someone who is negative, you sponge up the negatives and it affects your attitude and when you hang around positive people you soak up the positive. You feel better and perform better. You must join and encourage positivity.
Every organization and every project has some negative people working there and sometimes you have to work with these people. But be sure not to go out of your way to spend time with these prophets of gloom and doom. You cannot perform at your best if you allow these people to dump their negative issues onto you. You should be able to find a diplomatic way of distancing yourself from negativity, and as you increase your associations with positive people you will see how your own positivity grows.
To achieve your goals and realise your potential, you must be willing to do things that you are afraid to do. That is how you develop your potential and I encourage all project managers I work with to follow this principle.
Many professionals, whom I asked, have admitted that they expressed anxiety before big tasks. Most of them also told me that sometimes that fear stopped them from taking action. Every time you step out of your comfort zone you may be gripped by fear. Each of us has a comfort zone and the activities and situations that lie inside the comfort area are familiar and routine. In this category are tasks such as speaking to your friends or colleagues, or filling out the daily paperwork at your job. However, as project manager you may face experiences or challenges that are outside your comfort zone. I have asked many project manager professionals about their most common fears. From professionals across different countries and cultures, the same answers come up again and again. Here are some of the most common fears they identify:
Now, I want you to consider the price you pay when you back out from those fears that are standing in the way of your growth. Many of us are indeed unwilling to pay this price, simply to avoid temporary discomfort and possible ridicule from others. In the long run, retreating is not the best way to handle your problem. You will never be highly successful unless you are willing to confront your fears. You may fail here and there, but you must demonstrate you learned from it.
The sooner you start creating a network, the faster you will progress in your career. Simply put, you cannot succeed on a grand scale all by yourself. That is why networking is so important. Networking is defined as the development of relationships with people for mutual benefit. Some of the business benefits you can get as a project professional from networking activities are:
But, what can we do to enhance the effectiveness of our network? I found some productive techniques that have been very helpful for me. You must project a winning attitude and you must be active in organisations and associations. Another key aspect is referring people. If you refer someone, make sure that the person mentions your name as the source of the referral.
You should also be a good listener. Have you ever been speaking to someone who goes on and on about himself and his business – and never takes a moment to ask about you? They are the last people you want to help. So, in your conversations, focus on drawing other people out. Let them talk about their careers and interests. In return, you will be perceived as caring, concerned and intelligent.
Remember that networks are built over time and that significant results usually don’t show up immediately. Passion, persistence and patience must be cultivated if you want to increase your network. Professional networking is also a project, so you must prepare a plan for that project. It is critical that you clearly identify your network contacts, develop a personalised networking plan and build an administrative process to manage it all. It is very important to ask your network contacts for their help, not for a job. People are delighted to help, but few will have a job to offer you.by