As the fall is now upon us, it is the beginning of school, soccer, football, and also Cub Scouts. I can’t help but think about my father during this time. He was a Cubmaster for many years. He loved leading and developing others. When on stage at a pack meeting, my dad came alive and truly performed. He could command a room with his words, expressions, and physical movements. He loved the Scouts and remained active in the organization well after I moved on to sports and girls.
The two material things that I keep as dear reminders of him:
1) His English wool driver cap.
2) His old Boy Scout shirt.
This year I volunteered to be the Cubmaster for my oldest son’s Cub Scout pack. Boy Scout shirts have not changed in 50 years. I could have purchased a new shirt but opted to wear my dad’s.
I took my dad’s Scout shirt off the hanger and carefully removed the badges from a past Scout troop in Oklahoma. Once I had removed all the emblems, the shirt looked bare. I could easily observe the years of use–a small stain on the right pocket, small needle holes where badges had been, a missing button.
The process was cathartic. I spent a few hours thinking about him as a Cubmaster. His liveliness in front of a crowd. His ability to make people laugh. The respect others showed him. I know I felt some friendly pressure from other parents and pack leaders to take on this leadership role, but I couldn’t help but wonder what made MY DAD take the first step to enlist as a Cubmaster.
Did he want to take on additional responsibilities in his life? With four children at home, I doubt this was the case. Did he want a more fulfilling life? Possibly. Was it an outlet for him? Was Scout participation the best thing since sliced bread? Who knows. I like to think that Scouts was the mechanism he used to be a role model for me outside our home, but also a way for him to feel more fulfilled in his own life.
Whatever the reason, I now know that it is intimidating to lead a group of 40-plus kids. A Cubmaster must:
- Speak coherently in front of 80 people in a crowded room.
- Appear happy.
- Make it fun for the kids.
- Hide the difficulties of his/her day, and to be lively and ON for the pack meeting.
At some point, you are going to be asked to teach others, help others, share your knowledge, to be helpful. You have to be able to turn it on.
Where did I have room for improvement? The first thing that came to mind was my fear of public speaking. I’ve always been great at 1:1 conversations and small group discussions but presenting in front of even 9 or 10 people was a huge mental hurdle for me.
I would sweat. I would get MAJOR butterflies. I would not sleep the night before a presentation.
This year, I decided to address my fear of public speaking head-on. I volunteered to be a Cubmaster, AND I joined a speaking club for professionals. It was NOT easy to take these steps. It is still intimidating to speak in front of others. It is scary. It stings to get unfavorable feedback on an area of your speech where you were trying to improve. But for me, it is worth every moment. Every critique provides nourishment for me. I use this feedback in other aspects of my life.
- Do you think I was scared to take on the Cubmaster job and to learn how to give speeches? You bet!
- Am I doing these things anyway? You bet!
- Am I going to learn something from these things? You bet!
What is one thing that will make you a better project manager?
- Perhaps it is studying to finally get a PMP.
- Perhaps like me, you want to become a better speaker.
- Perhaps you want the experience of leading a multi-cultural project team.
Whatever the case, sometimes you just need a little nudge. Sometimes a mentor, friend, manager, or coworker gives you a nudge, but I’ve learned that it NEEDS TO BE YOU that gives yourself a push.
Here are 5 ways to self-inflict short-term pain to achieve long-term gain (you will need to thank yourself later!):
- Volunteer – Try volunteering for your favorite charity or your child’s school. Volunteer at work to take an expanded role if you think the challenge will help you learn something new. Volunteer for a job that nobody wants.
- I’ve coached soccer now for four years. If you can manage eight 5-year old boys at once, you can certainly wrangle an IT project.
- I’m a Freshman Cubmaster. I’ll let you know how it goes.
- Go to a Meet-Up – This is small meeting for like-minded people with similar interests. For introverts – this is especially difficult. Painful even. Make a point to talk to three different people at a Meet-Up.
- Attend a conference in your discipline – Make five professional contacts. Then you are done for the day. I promise. FORCE yourself to talk to five people in a genuine fashion. Ask Questions. Practice your non-verbals. Don’t think about the next thing you are going to say. Don’t talk about yourself unless asked!
- Join a speaking club for professionals – Check out Toastmasters.
- Write a project management guest blog post – I am taking orders! When you write, it forces you to think honestly about your beliefs, your feelings, your actions, and the concepts you want to convey to your audience. I’ll bet you have unique, individual thoughts on project management. I want you to share them on my platform. Contact me with your blog post ideas.
Here’s the deal. We live in a culture of EASY. Nobody wants to do anything hard. But, to avoid your fear is to create a self-inflicted roadblock.
When you are passionate about something and spend your time doing that one thing. You tend to enjoy yourself and feel more at peace with yourself in the world. You also tend to show more emotion. PEOPLE CAN TELL.
But, the opposite is also true. When you are fearful, uneasy, not confident in your role, trying to use EASY to get ahead, PEOPLE CAN TELL.
What is your fear? What is the one thing that you WISH or NEED to do better to make you a better project manager?