When nice guys fail

So I’m a nice guy, and I’m a project manager. If you can be both, I haven’t figured it out yet.

Today I wasn’t a nice guy. I put the vendors on mute during an 8 AM conference call while I got the two designers to talk to one another and figure out what the hell we’re doing so we don’t look like idiots. It took a good five minutes. The one designer wasn’t in the meeting at first and I said to someone else in the room, Get him down here.

I got a compliment after the meeting. I sent out detailed meeting notes about 15 minutes later and used Bold formatting, sparingly.

I double-checked with the contingent worker we asked to run us through some process flows what his plan was for that meeting and told him to bring copies.

I sent three emails in a row in about five minutes to a similar grouping of people with follow-up items. I did a “reply to all” when our Procurement partner tried to correct me on my follow-up notes from the 8 o’clock, because he was wrong.

I completed one MS project schedule to hand over to a PM associate supporting us and built the logic for the larger, program-level one.

I smile at people in the halls. You have to treat everyone as if they may work for you some day, or vice versa. It actually happened that way, with the guy who hired me into our project management office four years ago: he was just some dude on the bus I sat across from and shared small-talk. He was shy and nice, and we developed a kind of bus relationship, and then he became my boss…out of 3,000 people at my office, I wound up working for him.

It’s nice to be nice but better to be effective, and a bonus if people like you but not a requirement. I learned that from some project managers I’ve worked with who are borderline despicable but earn your respect because they can do it, and it’s hard.

A guy caught me on my way out the office today and asked how the project is going. He could tell from my eyes and my demeanor I was beat. He made a comment about corralling cattle, or herding cats — and I said yeah, the cats are faster and smarter than the cattle. They don’t need to like me, though.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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7 Responses to When nice guys fail

  1. rossmurray1 says:

    I don’t see the part where you weren’t nice. You were working, doing your job, maybe on occasion letting emotion call the shots (i.e. being human). Probably the only person who doesn’t like that is you.
    – Dr. Murray


  2. Elyse says:

    You don’t have to be nice, just respectful. It sounds like you were both. You don’t have to coddle though; you shouldn’t and didn’t. Well done. It’s a delicate balance.


    • pinklightsabre says:

      Thank you Elyse! You’re right, of course and respect is a crucial part of it. What’s your work experience if you don’t mind my asking?


      • Elyse says:

        I’m a manager of a small department, with 2-4 people reporting to me. But I also coordinate input into my projects from folks who know waaaaay more than me — scientists. It is a delicate balance.


      • pinklightsabre says:

        Ah — got it. Some similarities then. I’ve been working with engineers and architects. And they know waaaaay more than me too.

        Sent from my iPhone



      • Elyse says:

        I find that as long as I don’t pretend to know as much or more than them, they think of me as a perpetual student!


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