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Posted by on Oct 1, 2014

The Human Side of Project Management

Tirado - Maximzing Project Success Through Human PerformanceMy new book, Maximizing Project Success Through Human Performance, focuses on what has been missing from most major project management methodologies – how to lead actual humans in successful projects.  Most experienced project managers know by now that project success or failure hinges on more than just schedules, budgets, and quality control; it’s almost always about people.

One of the most challenging people situations every project manager faces is dealing with a difficult person you just don’t like — and would even rather avoid. Here’s an excerpt that provides a strategy for managing such a situation:

Building a Strategy For Averters
Most of us have, at one point or another, met people who instantly rub us the wrong way. An averter is any person whom you instinctively avoid—in extreme cases, that you avoid at all costs. This psychological reaction is based on your subjective perception of the individual. Unfortunately, we can’t wish those folks away, and we can’t write them off. Chances are we will need them at some point.

To work with an averter, we need to change our perceptions of that individual. This may not sound logical, since the other person plainly is the problem (or so we think!). But by changing your mindset, you will become less irritated by the person.

Here’s an example. I attended a two-week Train the Trainer of Behavioral Analysis at the Institute of Analytic Interviewing. On the second day of the course, there was a woman in the class that I just didn’t like—let’s call her Jackie. I didn’t know why I didn’t like Jackie, but that night I decided to use one of my tools to help bring to the surface what was happening unconsciously.

On a blank sheet of paper, I wrote two questions side by side. Then, I started to write, free-form, what I didn’t like about Jackie. Then, I did the opposite and focused on what did I like about Jackie.

What I DON’T like about this person What I DO like about this person
  • Came across as condescending and patronizing.
  • Seems disinterested in being part of the group.
  • Based on the face she makes, it looks like she holds back what she really wants to say.
  • Appears friendly.
  • Is concise when making a point.
  • Stands up for others.

After creating this list, I started to realize that there was something going on underneath Jackie’s abrasive exterior. Every time I interacted with Jackie I made a conscious effort to focus on her good qualities. As we started to get to know each other better, she became more comfortable with me to the point where she decided to share some of her personal experiences. Getting to know her background helped explain why she had built walls around herself.

In the end, my mindset shift enabled me to work with Jackie better and turn around what was sure to be a difficult relationship. If I hadn’t written down and focused on Jackie’s positives, I might never have moved beyond my initial conclusion that she had control issues and a superiority complex.

We have a natural tendency to dismiss people based on our impressions. Unfortunately, many of us don’t bother to explore what’s driving a person to act a certain way or find out why we don’t like them. This exercise, albeit simple, is meant to inspire self-reflection regarding the issue that is really driving the wedge between you and that person. Writing your impressions down will help you pinpoint what annoys you and why. More important, it forces you to list the person’s positive aspects. The goal is to focus on the positives and recondition your mind to think better of this individual.

Excerpted with permission from Maximizing Project Success Through Human Performance by Bernardo Tirado. © 2013 by Management Concepts Inc. All rights reserved.

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