Stay Calm


All of us will face stress, urgency, emergency, crisis – powerful pressures that can cause us to become un-centered, upset, angry, frightened and generally emotional.

This emotional state is not a great place for making good decisions. Don’t misunderstand – there is nothing wrong with involving emotions in decision making, but ultimately the decision should be made from a position of calm cool headed consideration, fact based and supportable.

A calm steady demeanor, relaxed body, even speaking voice, confidence in managing the outcomes of the situation – these are leadership qualities that are admired and sought after. The good news is that this is a learned behavior. That unflappable PM you know was once as stressed and nervous as you feel. Even if it may seem as though someone is naturally calmer, they are subject to emotions just as we all are. They have had to learn how to remain calm and focused under stress.

It’s a confidence thing. To some degree, inner confidence comes with experience. Still, we need to develop and practice responding to pressure with calm fortitude and an even hand. Lot’s of very experienced people freak out when things go badly wrong, so it is not experience alone. It is your personal decision to be a calm reassuring presence in any crisis that is the main deciding factor.

So – when it hits the fan, take a deep breath or two, relax your body, straighten your shoulders and Stay Calm! You’ll make better decisions and your team will be glad a real leader¬†is in charge.


Start at the End


Your WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) is nothing more than the breakdown of your final project deliverable into smaller and smaller pieces. Keep breaking down until you can accurately estimate cost and time (duration) for each sub-deliverable.

Try this. Get some open wall space and a lot of post-it notes. Write out the project’s main top level deliverable, for example “12 story office tower”, on a single post-it, and place it at the top center of the wall.

Now have your team write out everything single thing they can think of that will be needed to create such a tower, one thing (one deliverable) per post-it. Have them randomly place them on the wall. Have them start to place the alike thing together, and label the groups. For example, anything to do with heating could be grouped under “HVAC”.

(Ask them to do this without talking to each other. This prevents the verbal team members from dominating the non-verbal team members.)

If you like, you can start with those high level groupings first. This is easier when you have knowledge and expertise onboard from the beginning. and it speeds things along.

You should see the organic creation of the initial high-level WBS, appearing quickly on the wall.  You will also see your team members interacting, learning from each other, possible building up some team spirit. You will witness cross-discipline thinking, and professional growth.

Plus – it’s fun to mess with post-its at work.