Project Professionals: Don’t Let a Little Tiger Get in Your Way

If anyone could get a room full of project and program managers mimicking a jockey on a horse, it’s Jim Lawless.

The closing speaker at the PMI® Global Congress 2012 — EMEA in Marseille, France, Mr. Lawless holds the United Kingdom’s underwater deep-dive record and once became a licensed jockey to win a £1 bet. So when he outlined his 10 rules for taming the tiger within — the voice inside that makes people afraid to take action — the audience listened.

Mr. Lawless reminded the group that each person writes his or her own life story. “In the end, you’re not going to ask ‘Did I have a good story,’ but ‘Did I write it? Or did the tiger dictate it for me?'” he said.

A project or program manager might have a game-changing idea, for example, but is too afraid to take it to the CEO. The result is regret — because the person let the tiger write the story.

Mr. Lawless’ 10 rules for taming the tiger are:

  1. Act boldly today — time is limited. Taking an immediate, bold step interrupts patterns and demonstrates that it’s only the tiger stopping project professionals from doing what they want.
  2. Rewrite your rulebook. According to Mr. Lawless, everyone has an internal rulebook that prevents him or her from taking bold steps. Go ahead and change it up.
  3. Head in the direction of where you want to go every day.
  4. It’s all in the mind. Mr. Lawless illustrated his fear of riding in a horse race by coercing the entire audience to get out of their chairs to mime the act. But he reminded the audience that fear tends to come at a time of opportunity. Tame that fear, and seize the opportunity.
  5. The tools for taming tigers are all around you.
  6. There is no safety in numbers. Heroes became heroes not because they blend in with the crowd, but because they stand for something.
  7. Do something scary every day.
  8. Understand and control your time to create change. Time is the only scarce resource, and therefore the most important thing to control.
  9. Create disciplines — do the basics brilliantly. Project professionals must figure out what it’s going to take to achieve their goal and then do those disciples every day — brilliantly and without fear.
  10. Never give up. Commit to your end point, and nothing short of it. When Mr. Lawless pledged to dive to 100 meters (328 feet), he didn’t go to 80 meters (462 feet) and see if he could go the rest of the way. He committed right from the start.

With those inspiring words, congress came to a close, with project professionals streaming into the French sunlight to tame their own tigers.

The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.

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