• Adam Thackeray

Parenting and Project Management

Have you ever considered the remarkable similarities between raising kids and managing projects at work? 

We as parents (I have 3 young kids) want to raise healthy and happy kids ready to take on the world. How do we do this? Positive parenting of course! Giving our kids the tools and knowledge to be emotionally intelligent beings is paramount. How kids learn from mom and dad about being self-aware, having self-regulation, being motivated, seeking mastery, empathy, fostering connections and coaching. All of these factors are enormous for their growth! 

In her book, Peaceful Parent, Happy KidsDr. Laura Markham notes three big ideas when it comes to parents and parenting - Regulating Yourself, Fostering Connection and Coaching, Not Controlling. Learning to be aware of your emotions and how to regulate them, build deep connections with your kids and coach them to thrive in the world; not controlling…. ALL of these stem from emotions and your level of emotional intelligence.

Now do any (or ALL) of those sound familiar to you? They should! In a recent article I wrote on what makes an Elite PM - I talked about how one of the top components is emotional intelligence (EI). Emotional Intelligence is a critical component to being a high-performing project manager.

Let’s look at these a little more...

Self-awareness  - You have to dig deep here. You must get back to the raw essence of YOU. It’s hard and you will have to expose yourself. Knowing what you're great at and where you don't fair so well. Maybe you’re a master organizer, however lack in communications? Maybe you’re a rock star in relations, however extensive process isn’t for you. Self-awareness is what makes you tick? Where does your passion burn? What really pushes your buttons? Where did you struggle?

This fundamental understanding is key as it helps pave the way of how you interact in the working world…everything from running a status meeting, to managing a team of 100 people to saving the day when your project goes sideways (and we all know that DOES happen!) 

Self regulation - Ah self-regulation…think hard about the last time someone was about to send you off the deep end…there are many occurrences of this project management - miscommunication, blatant ignorance, saboteurs, personality clashes, executive micromanagement…OR what about that time you presented to the board for the first time for a 10MM program budget? Ever stood up in front of a big audience and get butterflies? What did you do in each of these situations…maybe you handled it well? Maybe you totally blew it? What matters here is recognizing your emotions in that moment and continuously working on how YOU handle and manage your emotions during those situations. (remember you have no control over others…just how you react to the moment).

I’m an impatient person. I know this…most people around me know this...As part of my personal growth and awareness I know that certain situations (dealing with slower timelines or work being done) or bloated processes drive me nuts. I like to get things done. So how do I deal with this…I stop and take a moment…could be an \ millisecond, might be a minute or a two…it depends on the situation. That simple pause is enough to reset my mindset. In addition, my daily meditation and regular visit to the gym keep a sound balance.

This applies in similar fashion to my kids and I…young kids lack logic. As a logical thinker…this is mind boggling at first, however they’re young and the brain is still developing. So when irrational and completely illogical situations happen, the ability to remain calm and patient is mandatory for being a parent.

Social Skills and Fostering Connections…Work always seems to flow much easier when you have sound relations with the project team, stakeholders and anyone else you deal with at work. Friction, awkwardness and negativity never help. They deter success, create stress and bring down the team. Learning to have social skills and building positive relationships with your team leads to deeper connections…leads to trust, leadership, collaboration and a cohesive understanding of how the team operates.

Coaching your team…wait a second…coaching isn’t a typical PM “function”…. where does that fit into initiation, planning, execution, monitoring/controlling and closure? Well, it’s at the start, the end and everywhere in between. Coaching is understanding your team (empathy, deep connections) and knowing how to work with that team to achieve the goals of the project. You are managing large number of people (YES HUMANS!) to get specific a scope of work done. Those people have emotions, lives outside of work, passions, perspectives…you will have strong resources, ones that need more help and coaching and even those who are the laggards for getting things done. You need to be able to positively coach your team so they can thrive and succeed…or perhaps fail…projects do fail and dealing with failure is much tougher thing to coach a group through then success.

In the end, we as parents and as project managers must work to understand and regulate our emotions, build deep connections and coach those around us so they can thrive.

As always, I’d love your feedback. Share your stories and experiences.

Thanks for reading!

Adam Thackeray

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