PM Traps: Over-Optimism and Lack of Self Awareness

Have you ever worked with someone who consistently says she’s going to do something and then doesn’t?  And then you wonder..

Is she just saying she’s going to do it so I’ll go away? . . . Or so the client will feel satisfied for the moment? . . . Or is she just a flake and forgets what she promised?

This is a fatal flaw for project managers – the client might be OK with an excuse the first time a deadline is missed, but after that they loose faith.  And once you have a reputation for over-promising and under-delivering, your chance of getting the next project goes way down.

If you or someone you know has a problem keeping their promises, here are a few tips that may help.

  • Make a sign.
    Hang it somewhere prominent so you’ll see it – use giant type and put the most important stuff in all caps

UNDER-PROMISE and OVER-DELIVER
(not the other way around)

  • Take a moment to think.
    When your client, your boss, or a member of your team is asking you to say when you’ll have something done, don’t blurt out an answer immediately. Really think through when you’ll have time to do it and then add some extra time on as a buffer. Or better yet, say “let me regroup on a few things and let you know.” Then make sure to follow up.
  • Set a standing meeting for getting back to people.
    Put a standing daily appointment in your calendar so that you have dedicated time reserved for getting back to people.  Keep a list so that you remember who you need to respond to and with what information.
  • Keep your priorities straight.
    If you are a full time project manager, your top priority should be to delight your client. Your second priority should be to help your team function effectively. If you have to put something off until later, put off anything that doesn’t support these priorities.
  • Track your progress.
    Write down every promise you make – along with the details (who you said you would get back to, by when, and with what) – then track how many times you deliver what you said you would and how many you didn’t. Strive for 100% success.

A good project manager should never surprise the client by missing a deadline. This is not to say that things don’t go off track sometimes, but if you’re watching your project (except for natural disasters and other unpredictable events), you’ll know ahead of time when something is going wrong and can proactively re-set your client’s expectations. Once you’ve built that trust with the client, your project can easily survive the hiccups that will inevitably occur.

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