Episode 19 — Advice for Someone Just Starting in Project Management

Episode #19
Original Air Date: 10.04.2016

32 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Andy Crowe, Bill Yates, Nick Walker

The team describes step-by-step how to claim your FREE Podcast PDUs. Andy and Bill share how they were first introduced to Project Management and give advice to those new to the industry.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"You can read all you want. Truth is, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have in whatever area. Every PM is going to have his or her first project at some point. And it’s just one of those things that – and your first project, you probably won’t ever forget it. You will probably make mistakes. And if you’re wise, you’ll learn from those mistakes. So you’re going to need help."

- Andy Crowe

"ou need to be proactive. If you think about, okay, I’m going to be a project manager, man, if you’re going to lead a team, you have got to show the attributes of a leader. You need to be proactive. You need to be curious. You know, a problem solver."

- Bill Yates

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ANDY CROWE ● BILL YATES ● NICK WALKER

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  Every two weeks we meet to talk about the things that matter most to you as a professional project manager.  These include the ins and outs of just doing the job of project management; how to get certified and stay certified.  And we hear from some of the leaders in the industry.

I’m your host, Nick Walker.  And with me are the in-house experts, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  You’ve got questions?  They’ve got answers.  Hey, guys.  It’s been a couple of weeks since we were all together.  It’s good to be back with you.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

ANDY CROWE: It’s good to be reunited.

NICK WALKER:  I hope you both look forward to this time as much as I do.  This is a great time to get together.  And I mentioned that we like to deal with questions.  One of the questions we’ve been hearing about is earning PDUs.  As most of us know, we need 60 PDUs, those are Professional Development Units…

BILL YATES:  Correct.

NICK WALKER:  …every three years to keep the PMP credential current.  And when somebody works that hard to get that credential, they don’t want to lose it.

BILL YATES:  That is true.

NICK WALKER:  Simply because they don’t get enough PDUs.

BILL YATES:  Right.

NICK WALKER:  So we’ve mentioned it before, but it’s probably a good idea to go into more detail.  We actually offer PDUs, free PDUs to our listeners.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  This podcast is good for PDUs.  And Nick, just one thing to add a little color to that is it’s not just the PMP.  You’ve got to have them for all the PMI credentials.  So PgMP, CAPM, PMI-ACP.

BILL YATES:  ACP, yup.

ANDY CROWE:  All of them.  PfMP.  So this is the currency of our people.

NICK WALKER:  Let’s talk a little bit about how to get some of those PDUs from this podcast.  Each Manage This Episode, I understand, is registered with PMI as a “Category A PDU.”

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  That means it’s top of the line, top-shelf platinum level.

NICK WALKER:  Oh, yeah.  And, you know, we’ve aligned each episode to the appropriate areas of PMI’s Talent Triangle.  Tell us a little bit about that.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.  You’ve got to have – so there’s three legs of a Talent Triangle, hence the word “triangle.”  There’s technical skills, there’s leadership, and there’s business savvy.  And you have to have at least eight PDUs from each of those legs.  So now the days are gone when you can read a book and claim all of your PDUs from reading a book or from giving back to the profession, which used to be a lot of people would get involved in their chapter, and they would give back, and they would get their PDUs that way.  Now you have to have a certain number from training.  And so this really comes in handy here.

NICK WALKER:  And the great thing is we make it simple here.  All you have to do is go to Velociteach.com and select “Manage This Podcast,” Manage This Podcast from the top of the page, and you’ll see a big button right there.  It says “Claim PDUs.”  And that spells out the steps.  You can find the PMI Activity ID by selecting the episode from the list.  You’ll see that near the top of the page, as well.

BILL YATES:  Correct, right, you’ll see it right there.  And that’s the data that you need to submit that PDU claim.  And like you said, the Claim PDUs button, that spells out all the nitty-gritty details for those PMs.  And they can follow along and check off the list and see it right there on PMI.org.

NICK WALKER:  So this is an easy way of getting the PDUs.  I hope lots of folks will take advantage of that.  So let’s give them some information so they can…

BILL YATES:  Earn the PDU, yeah.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah, let’s do it.  You know, sometimes it’s good to kind of take a step back.  You know, we’ve talked about a lot of things over the last several weeks with all these podcasts.  But a lot of people are interested in a career in project management.  But maybe it’s a good idea to talk about where to begin.  Can I get a little background from you guys, just to help us know how you got started?

ANDY CROWE:  You know what, Nick, there are – I get this question so many times that somebody comes along, and they say, “My son or my granddaughter is graduating from college, and he or she wants to be a project manager.  How do they get started?”  And it’s a really interesting thing because there are a lot of paths into project management.  I’ll tell you this.  My own opinion is it’s easier, and doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it’s easier if you’re coming from a domain where you have some expertise.  And this is one of those things that not everybody agrees on this.  This is my opinion.  I think it works better for a project manager to kind of stick within some domain, like construction, like information technology.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  I mean, you think about so much of what you have to do as a project manager is either come up with estimates or figure out resources or lead your team in doing that.  So if you know something about the industry and about the types of projects – you’ve been involved in them, you’ve had your sleeves rolled up, you’ve had your hands in the dirt – you’re going to do them better.  And you’ll be able to assess and see if something is reasonable and have some expertise in that.

ANDY CROWE:  So the argument on the other side of that, and it is a fiercely debated topic in our world, but the argument on the other side of that is that, if you have good business analysts, and the business analysts are doing the job that a BA is supposed to do, then the project manager can basically outsource all of that and keep the project finely tuned and moving.  Trouble is, my experience doesn’t line up with that so well.  The one project where I got really burned, I was out of my domain.  I was trusting BAs, and I did not get good data.  And if I had only had some particular expertise to know that, I would have done better.

Now, that said, there’s merit on both sides of it.  But I believe it’s easier to become a project manager if you know something about what you’re doing.  It’s certainly a lot lower risk.  You don’t want to go in and become a construction project manager and not understand construction.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  You’re going to get into trouble.  So that’s my thing.  You know, my path, Nick, I came up, I started out my career as a C++ developer.  So I was a coder.  And I got promoted up to team lead, which was interesting because I was not the most tech, and I probably wasn’t the most talented developer on my team.  And suddenly they said, “Hey, you’re going to be team lead.”  Wasn’t asked what, whatever.  But it was a promotion.  And a promotion’s a promotion; you know?  So I said, “Great.”

BILL YATES:  So you said, “Yes, sir.”

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, okay, this is good news.

BILL YATES:  That’s me.

ANDY CROWE:  So I was excited about that.  Suddenly I was the leader of a team.  And I’m getting to define coding standards, and I’m getting to approve designs and architecture and all this stuff.  And I was able to do those things.  And after about two years of that, maybe 18 months, I was recruited to become a project manager in an organization.  And I had no idea what I was doing.  But here’s the problem.  It always looks easy.  And you know the Peter Principle.  The Peter Principle says you’re promoted to your level of incompetency.  You’re promoted up until the point when you can no longer do the job.  And Scott Adams came along later – was it Scott Adams who does “Dilbert”?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  Scott Adams came along later.  He wrote a book called “The Dilbert Principle.”  And “The Dilbert Principle” said, look, the Peter Principle there was some good there because in the Peter Principle you had – your boss, even though he or she was incompetent, they could probably do your job better than you could.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, they’ve done it, and they got promoted.  Said, but with the Dilbert Principle, the Dilbert Principle says they look around, and they find the poor sap who can do the least amount of damage and make him or her the project manager.  Okay?  That’s the Dilbert Principle.  So the PM is going to be somebody who is just, you know, hopefully they’re not going to screw things up.  That can often be the case.  And I’m worried sometimes that I started my career dangerously close to that because I was recruited as a PM because of my technical knowledge, because I understood the way the coding worked and things like that, the way software architecture worked.

And suddenly I was asked to do a project plan.  Nick, I had no idea what I was doing.  To me, that meant a Gantt chart.  That meant a schedule.  And so I put together a great schedule.  And my boss looked at it and just had this moment, you know, it was a face-plant moment.  And he said, “Look, this is not going to work.  This is not a project plan.”  To me it looked great.  I thought, of course it is.  If it’s not, what is it?  And he took me back, and he said, “I want to show you what one of your colleagues gives me when I ask for a project plan.”  And he opened up a binder.  And I was floored.

Bill, I had never seen anything like this.  This was all the stuff that’s supposed to be in a project plan.  A schedule, yes; but a schedule management plan, and a communication management plan, and a change management plan, and on and on and on.  Risks identified.  Lists.  Stakeholders.  Contact info.  Everything this guy needed to manage a project was in that binder.  And I was totally blown away.  And when I saw this – the thing is, I may be slow, but I can be taught.  And so when I saw this, the light bulb started coming on.  I said, “I’ve got to learn to do this.”  He said, “Here.  You can have this copy.”

BILL YATES:  Okay.

ANDY CROWE:  And that was it for me.  That was the moment when the lights started to come on.

BILL YATES:  It was as if a door, a secret door was open, and there was a whole ‘nother world that you walked into.

ANDY CROWE:  And I got to see somebody else holding a flashlight, way off in the distance.  Somebody’s figured this out.  Somebody else knows how to do this.  I can learn it.

BILL YATES:  I can get there.  That’s so good.

NICK WALKER:  You know, when I mentor other folks, college students mostly, in the broadcasting industry, I tell them, be flexible.  There are things that are going to come your way that you’ve never even thought of.  And your life may turn on a dime.  It may take you places that you never thought about.  Was this one of those times where you sort of had a plan, and then all of a sudden it was like, oh, okay.  I’ve been asked to do something else.  I can do that.

ANDY CROWE:  You know what, Nick, this felt natural and organic to me.  This felt like – but suddenly now, this is the interesting part, now I’m having to lead a team.  Now, I studied management in school; okay?  I had worked in and around managers my whole career.  And suddenly I’m now a manager.  I’m now a project manager.  But nobody – this was the interesting part.  Nobody taught me how to lead a team.  And nobody had ever trained me how to resolve team conflict and just basic things about how to get along with people.

You know, it’s like that book, “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” or something like that.  You know, how to play well with others, things like that.  Nobody had ever really taught me that.  I guess I skipped that part of kindergarten that day.  So that, to me, was a lot more difficult.  But, no, it didn’t, it wasn’t a strange secret passage or a turn on a dime for me.  It felt very organic.  It got surreal a little bit later, which we’ll talk about.  But that was an organic thing.

BILL YATES:  My experience was similar in that it was a gradual – you kind of wake up one day, and you’re like, oh, I guess I’m a project manager.  Wow.  I went from Duke Power Company – coming right out of college I went to work with Duke Power Company in a management trainee program.  So I was learning how to manage others.  And then after a year and a half, two years, I left that company to go to work for a utility consulting firm.  So we’re working with gas, electric, telcos throughout the United States.  And our projects really consisted of implementing the software for those utilities.  And the software was financial software, so it really supported their annual reports and their rate case process that they would go through.  So these are big numbers, and important numbers, and detailed calculations.

So the technical side of it was really detailed.  You could either go into it deeply as a programmer, as a designer, as a tester, or the other side was the business side.  And that was, to Andy’s point, the business analysts making sure that we had the requirements identified right, that we built the right interfaces from the old system to the new, that we were training up the client on the new software they’d be using and communicating everything to them.

So what I found was people on our small teams would be working the projects.  And you tended to go one way or the other.  Either technically you became a good designer, a good coder, a good tester; or, on the business side, that was more natural for you to drive out requirements, to lead the meetings, to communicate with a customer and do that kind of thing.  And guess which way I went?  I loved the problem-solving that came with the software.  I loved trying to figure out why something was broken or why we were showing the wrong number on a report or what had happened here.

But to me, I realized that I was pretty good at communicating with the customer.  Or if we had a problem with a vendor, I was fine dealing with that conflict.  So those kind of things resonated with me.  You know, it’s kind of, you’re all around the conference room table, and you realize, “Oh, man, we’ve had this calculation wrong for six months.  Somebody needs to go tell the customer.”  And they’d kind of look at me.  Okay, you know, I was just dumb enough, naïve enough that I’d go do it.  And so through that it became an issue of leadership, of, okay, well, why don’t you lead this part of the team, or why don’t you lead this part of the communications that we’re going to have with a customer.  And then it evolved into managing a project.

NICK WALKER:  So it seems like it was very natural for both of you to sort of move into that role.  Once you realized, “I’m the project manager,” did you say, “Wait a minute, back off, I’ve got to learn more here before I can really move into this role full bore?”

ANDY CROWE:  There’s no question, Nick.  And it’s one of these things that I gained really quickly a lot of head knowledge.  I started reading everything I could get my hands on about project management, about these constituent plans and components and how to create them and how to do these things.  But it’s funny because head knowledge will get you so far.  And then there’s a need for, I guess, experiential knowledge.  There’s a quote I love that says, “A person with an experience will never be at the mercy of an argument.”

NICK WALKER:  Ah.

ANDY CROWE:  And that kind of resonates with me.  You know, the more you do it, and the more you’ve been through it and experienced some of these things, that starts to really take on a lot more weight than your head knowledge.  Which is why a project manager, a seasoned PM who’s in their 40s is probably going to be better than a know-it-all in his early 20s.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  It happens both ways.  Now, that’s not to – I’ve been that know-it-all.  So I get it, you know, it’s okay.  I’m kind of sympathetic and have a lot of affection for that know-it-all.  But experience does it.  So I think that’s a big, big part of it.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, and you don’t – you’re never really ready.  That’s the reality of it.  You’ve never really ready.  You’re never, quote/unquote, “done” or “prepared.”  There’s always areas to grow.  And it is, it’s very intimidating early in the career as a project manager, just thinking, okay, I have no clue.  If they had any idea how green I was or what a rookie I am.  I think of Curly in that movie “City Slickers.”  And Billy Crystal, his character, asks Curly, you know, kind of like what’s the meaning of life type thing.  And Curly is this grizzled old cowpoke.  And so he’s got the big hat on, and he’s got the cigarette dangling out of his mouth.  And he looks at Bill, and he says, “It’s this one thing.”  And, you know, Crystal says, “So what is it?  What’s the one thing?”  And Curly says, “You’ve got to figure it out.”  Kind of leaves him hanging; right?

And I thought about the conversation we had in this room just recently with Joel Neeb, “Thor,” the president of Afterburner.  And he’s an F-15 pilot, retired F-15 pilot.  Done a lot of training.  And one thing that resonated with me was when he talked about, as a rookie pilot, just being overwhelmed by 300, 350 dials in that very sophisticated aircraft.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  And, you know, we made the analogy of, okay, I’m a project manager.  I don’t know what dial to look at, what metric is important.  My head’s spinning.  I’m about to go into my first meeting to debrief the customer, or to meet with upper management.  I have no clue.  What am I supposed to do?

ANDY CROWE:  And you know, Bill, it’s not even just these big meetings with important people where I would get overwhelmed early on.  Email has taken on such a prominent role, and it’s overwhelming.  And we had somebody that we were meeting with recently, who works with our organization, who was overwhelmed by email.  It just, it comes in.  So you’ve got this idea of that’s the noise, that’s the 350 dials.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  And the reason it’s important is that people are constantly trying to increase their – take over your agenda, in a way.  They’re trying to say, “Hey, my piece needs attention right now.”  This needs – you’ve got all these little crying babies, if you will, and 350 of them, instead of just dials.  And you’ve got to stop and say, okay, I’ve got to focus and prioritize.  I’ve got to be able to figure out which ones need a diaper change and which ones need feeding and which ones just need a little powder and put back to bed.  That illustration might work.  Somebody ought to write a book on that.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, I like that a lot.

NICK WALKER:  I like that.

BILL YATES:  I like that a lot, yup.  Neal Whitten talks, he hits a drum consistently, which is “Manage to your top three.”  Again, tons of respect for Neal.  Love that, that concept of, okay, yeah, you have 350 dials.  You have 350 crying babies.  Which babies are most important?  And let’s make sure that we’re putting the right resources on that.  So he talks about managing to the top three.  So what Andy and I have discovered, certainly, and I think it resonates with any rookie project manager, early in my career I didn’t know.  I just had to pick.  I had to decide in my mind, based on what I could tell at that time, in my experience, what is most important?

And, man, I’d blow it sometimes.  But that’s okay.  It’s okay to fail in some small things like that – walk into a meeting, even with my team, thinking here’s the agenda, this is really how we should be spending our time, and then walk out of it going, “Hey, friend, trusted friend, give me some feedback on that.”  “Yeah, you spent way too much time on this one issue, and you totally ran out of time to address the big thing.  We’re going to be onsite with the customer next week.  You didn’t even talk about that.”

ANDY CROWE:  This idea of managing to your top three is so important.  And I’m mentoring somebody these days.  And this young man has a list that would – it’s overwhelming.  And so when you have that many priorities, you know exactly what’s going to happen.  It’s you’re not going to get to – you’re not going to take care of them.  And so getting it whittled down to a smallest – I do this personally every Sunday afternoon or Sunday evening, sometimes bleeds into Monday morning.  I’ll make my list for the week.  These are my priorities this week.  This is what I will consider, if I can do these things, my week will have been a success.

NICK WALKER:  And as the project manager, you talk about the importance of communication, you know, communication with your team, with the customer.  That sort of falls on you.

BILL YATES:  It does.  And again, one of my favorite quotes from the alpha study that Andy conducted with, what, 883,000…

ANDY CROWE:  860, thank you.

BILL YATES:  860, thank you, project managers.  One of those top performers said, until the deliverable is in the hand of my customers, communication is my deliverable.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.  And that was a guy named Victor.  And I’ve kept up with Victor over the years.  That was one of the most transformative quotes, to me, because to me – and we’ll talk a little bit more about personality later in the podcast.  But my personality, I didn’t always want to communicate.  Sometimes I wanted to hold onto information, information as currency.  You know, you don’t just spend everything you’ve got.  You kind of hold back and things like that.

And what I really figured out is I was thinking about that incorrectly.  Really communication will help.  In this case, it’s an investment.  And it is a substitute.  Sometimes, sometimes when you’re building a big construction project, you can watch it go up.  And if somebody wants an update, you can take them over there, and you can show them.  “Here, let’s take a tour.  Let’s walk through and see what we’re doing.”  But with some of these projects, you can’t do that.  And so then communication becomes the proxy for the product.  Until it’s in the customer’s hands, communication is my deliverable.  That really was transformative to me.

NICK WALKER:  You mentioned how important it is to read.  You said that was one of the first things you did.  “I went and read.”  What should potential project managers be reading?

ANDY CROWE:  I started my career, and this dates me a little bit, before there was a “PMBOK Guide.”  So that’s kind of considered to be our industry’s – one of the most important books in our industry, maybe the most important to a project manager.  And I started before then.  But there were these pamphlets that PMI distributed.  And they became sort of the foundations for the chapters, the content for the first “PMBOK Guide.”  First “PMBOK Guide” came out in 1996.  And so I was already managing projects before then.  But I read as much as I could there.  Then there were some big authors within the world.  Kerzner was one of them, you know, Kerzner was publishing.  And one is escaping me.  It’s going to come to me in a minute, James…

BILL YATES:  Lewis?

ANDY CROWE:  Lewis, thank you.  James Lewis was publishing, and some of these books.  Now, they’re daunting.  These aren’t slim, quick, bedside reads.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  These are big, heavy, academically oriented books.

BILL YATES:  They’re just a step down from the “PMBOK Guide.”

ANDY CROWE:  But they had a lot of great content.  So that was one good place to start.  And also, you know, maybe if you’re Agile, there’s a good book that will help get you started in the Agile world that’s – I think it’s called “Scrum:  A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction.”  And that’s one of those things.  Now, obviously, you’re probably not walking into an Agile coach green.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  You’ve probably had a good bit of Agile experience.  And so that would be a little bit of a different path.  But there’s a number of good resources out there.  Bill, what do you like?

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  Ken Schwaber has a book on Agile, “Agile Project Management with Scrum.”  Again, it’s not – it’s less than 200 pages.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s a classic.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, he lays it out so clearly.  And he’s one of the originals, if you will.  He’s a great name in that.  You know, I mentioned Neal Whitten.  He has a book that I love the approach he took.  It’s taking common questions that project managers have and categorizing them and addressing them.  So it’s a Q&A book.  And so “No-Nonsense Advice for Successful Projects” by Neal Whitten.

ANDY CROWE:  That’s a great book.

BILL YATES:  It’s such – and again, it’s so topical.  So if I walk out of a meeting, and I feel like, okay, I thought I understood risk management, maybe I don’t, I can flip this book and find the section that’s appropriate.  Or, hey, what’s the role between the BA and the PM because I’m very confused right now.  Neal speaks – he addresses that.  There’s another book that I’ve mentioned a few times in this podcast.  It’s by Scott Berkun, and it’s called “The Art of Project Management.”  That’s been recast, so you’d have to Google that to find the appropriate name for it now.  But again, that was very impactful to me early in my career.

ANDY CROWE:  That book’s no longer in print?

BILL YATES:  I believe it’s called “The Myth of Innovation.”

ANDY CROWE:  Okay.  Interesting.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

NICK WALKER:  And in addition to reading, what should we be doing?

ANDY CROWE:  You know what, Nick?  You can read all you want.  Truth is, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have in whatever area.  Every PM is going to have his or her first project at some point.  And it’s just one of those things that – and your first project, you probably won’t ever forget it.  You will probably make mistakes.  And if you’re wise, you’ll learn from those mistakes.  So you’re going to need help.  And to me, the biggest source of help, okay, templates are wonderful.  We’ll touch on that in a minute.  But books are great.  Resources, websites, software, all that is great supporting stuff.  To me, the one thing that I don’t think I could live without is a mentor.  And it may not even be a formal mentor, but somebody who has done this before, that I can sit down and ask how this works.

BILL YATES:  You need to find a Curly; right?

NICK WALKER:  Yeah.  Figure it out.

ANDY CROWE:  I like a little more direction than “That’s for you to figure out.”  Yeah, you know, it’s one of those things, finding a mentor and just being able to be open and transparent with that person.  So with me, I like to get mentors outside of my profession when I can.  I like to find somebody safe that I can sit down with and say, hey, I don’t know what I’m doing in this arena.  Can you give me any pointers?

BILL YATES:  And it’s so good, too, because then – let’s say I’m in the health industry, and I’m managing projects in the health industry.  I’ve got a certain way of looking at projects.

ANDY CROWE:  And the world, yeah.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  And what if I had somebody that was on the software side that was selling – maybe they’d build apps, or they, gosh, maybe they’re in the gaming industry.  Or maybe it’s somebody in construction, or somebody in, you know, some other industry.  They’re going to bring a different perspective to it and share tools and techniques with me that I may be able to apply to my projects.

ANDY CROWE:  I have collaborated before with people in the healthcare field; with people in mass transit.  And magic comes out of that cross-pollination because you start – you’re solving problems that have a lot in common with problems they solved, and it’s…

BILL YATES:  There’s a diversity of experience that’s powerful.

ANDY CROWE:  It is.  It matters.  It’s very powerful.

BILL YATES:  Right, yeah.

NICK WALKER:  Andy, you mentioned personality before.  How can folks know whether they have the right personality for a project manager?  Or is there a right personality?

ANDY CROWE:  Probably.  There are some personalities that work better than others.  So Fiedler’s Contingency Theory says that you’re primarily either task-oriented or relationship-oriented.  So based off of that, you can draw a lot of conclusions.  I’m pretty task-oriented.  I’m very organized.  I make lists.  I come out with constituent tasks.  I like to assign and delegate and follow up and track.  That’s just the way my brain kind of organizes things.

But I have seen amazing project managers also come out of the relationship side.  And they’re great at directing and managing teams.  They’re great at coaching.  They’re great at – and so it can work either way.  You can be a very organized person.  You can be a very relational person.  And either one of those can be a good PM.  But there’s more to it than that.  What do you think, Bill?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, there is.  There are two paths I want to take here for a quick note.  One thing that I love about projects is there is a beginning and an end.  When I was in college there were classes that I could – after day one, I was already looking at the calendar going, how many more times do I have to go to this class?  And unfortunately, I’ve had clients or engagements like that with projects where, again, it wasn’t the – maybe it wasn’t the best place to go to, or maybe there was something about it that was just stressful. So projects have a beginning and an end.  I like it that there are new experiences every time, right, with a project.  There are new challenges, new experiences.  So I’m wired that way.  That appeals to me.  So if that doesn’t appeal to a personality, that may be something that is not, you know, maybe being a PM is not ideal for you.  I like being measured frequently.  That happens with projects.  There are frequent checkpoints.  There are frequent, “Hey, you did well,” or, “Eh, I didn’t like that.”

ANDY CROWE:  I’m going to put a height chart on the wall and start measuring you every month to see how much Bill has grown this week.

BILL YATES:  Just to make good me feel good; right.  So those were some quick points on that.  But to go deeper about personality, there were some studies that were done.  One that I looked at was by Dean Gehring.  And there there’s a very interesting comparison, looking at the competencies or the skills that are identified as indicative of project managers who are successful.  So these are traits that they have.  And these are things like teamwork and cooperation, collaboration, achievement orientation.  Again, that kind of resonates with me.  I like to be measured frequently.  Initiative.  Team leadership.  Analytical thinking.  So those are competencies that PMs typically have.

And then think of that as the rows on a chart.  So the other axis, the column, the X-axis, if you will, takes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and says, okay, based on your Myers-Briggs personality score, you know the 16 different types, then how does that line up with these competencies that lead to strong project managers?  And then they’re just, you know, through surveying and analysis, they’re ticking off that box to see how many boxes are ticked for each of those 16 Myers-Briggs type indicators.

So here’s what it comes down to.  There are three of the 16 MBTIs that are indicative or score really highly.  So in other words, if your MBTI is INTJ, ENTJ, or ESTJ, then it’s very likely that you’d be good as a project manager.  You would thrive.  You’d be happy in the role.  You would enjoy it.

ANDY CROWE:  So what is yours, Bill?

BILL YATES:  Mine’s ENTJ.

ANDY CROWE:  Okay.  And mine is INTJ.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  I found that interesting.

ANDY CROWE:  I’m an introvert who overcompensates.

BILL YATES:  There you go.

NICK WALKER:  So as Jeff Foxworthy would say, “You might be a project manager if you are an INTJ.”

BILL YATES:  Right, right, right.

ANDY CROWE:  I talked with somebody at the conference in Honolulu the other day.  And she makes checklists for her tailgate parties, for when she goes to her college football games.  She’s got these flow charts of things to bring and things to assign and all of this.  And I laughed.  And I said, “My people.”

BILL YATES:  Exactly.  Harold Samson, one of our instructors, he does the same thing, tailgates to the Florida games.  It’s University of Florida.  I’m trying not to hold that against him.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s a tragic choice, but at least the organization’s good.

BILL YATES:  It is.  It is.  Yeah, yeah.  Yeah.  So they’re, you know, to me, if you think about personalities and what – if I’m wired this way, would I be good as a PM?  As Andy said, it takes all types.  But I think there are a few things that we can say are true.  You need to be proactive.  If you think about, okay, I’m going to be a project manager, man, if you’re going to lead a team, you have got to show the attributes of a leader.  You need to be proactive.  You need to be curious.  You know, a problem solver.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s interesting to me, I’m staring at this list of three:  the INTJ, ENTJ, ESTJ.  And the two that are consistent across all of them are the T, which is thinking, and the J, which is judging.  And I can definitely see that those two are two skills.  They wouldn’t work well the other way.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  You know, instead of the J, the opposite of the J is the P.  And the P’s are fun to hang out with.  They’re fun at a party.  They’re a great balance to those of us who are J’s.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  Many of us who are J’s are married to someone who’s a P.

BILL YATES:  Ding ding ding.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, okay.  We have that in common.  But sometimes those skills don’t always translate into a successful project manager.  Whereas the J’s are the organized, the more rigid, the more structured, the more ordered types.  Interesting.

BILL YATES:  Mm-hmm.

NICK WALKER:  This is good stuff, guys.  I think this is where the rubber meets the road and hopefully has encouraged and challenged a lot of our listeners.  So Andy, Bill, as always, thanks for your stories.  Thanks for your insight.  I know a lot of folks are grateful for the free PDUs, just for listening to this podcast.  And again, to claim those PDUs, go to Velociteach.com and select “Manage This Podcast” from the top of the page.  There you’ll find that big old button that says “Claim PDUs.”  Click there.  It will walk you through the steps to get your free PDUs.  It couldn’t be simpler.

And that’s it for us here on Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in on October 18th for our next podcast.  In the meantime, you can visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And tweet us at @manage_this if you have a quick comment or a question for our experts about project management certifications.  We’ve got your back.  That’s all for this episode.  Talk to you again soon.  In the meantime, keep calm and Manage This.

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