How Irish managers can run better projects by being more like Donald Trump

Sure the US president isn’t perfect, but hear us out on this one.

By Pat Lucey President, Irish Chapter of PMI

IT’S SAFE TO say that US president Donald Trump is not a universally loved figure.

However, there are a few things he does really well – things that those managing projects in Ireland could learn from. Here are three things project managers can do, based on the example set by Trump:

1. Declare war on ‘fake news’

Trump has not been slow to cry foul on what he sees as ‘fake news’ stories in the media. Of course, he only attributes this label to stories that portray him in a negative light.

Part of a project manager’s role is to collect information and status updates from team members and communicate that overall status to management.

However, nobody likes to declare their area is in trouble, so it is not unknown for team leads to declare their section is under control and everything is at ‘green’ status – when every member of the team knows the status is really flaming red!

So project managers should play the Trump card here and declare war on ‘fake news’. In other words, we should insist on honest status updates. Only then can you communicate the true status of the project, be that good news or bad.

2. Embrace new forms of communication

Trump’s midnight tweets have become legendary, and while the content of some of his tweets is not something to necessarily embrace, the use of new forms of communication is something to consider.

Not long ago, the most common way to communicate with colleagues was to type a memo and post it via internal mail. Then came email – less formal but more immediate, allowing for feedback and dialogue.

School-leavers now look upon email to be as antiquated as the typewriter. They communicate via instant-messaging apps, self-destructing messages and a host of mobile-accessible formats and will expect to use versions of these tools when then entering the workplace.

One of the challenges for project managers in Ireland is to communicate effectively with project team members – to keep everybody on the same page and up to speed with progress. Emailing out a project schedule once a week will not cut it.

Maybe we need to take the lead from Trump and embrace the business equivalents of Twitter, such as Slack, to communicate real-time project information in easily digestible amounts.

3. Publicise our achievements

One thing that nobody can deny is that Donald Trump exudes confidence and a grandiose sense of his self-worth. Now compare that to the typical Irish psyche.

If I ask some of my Irish colleagues what kind of job they have done on the most recent projects, I will hear phrases such as ‘not too bad’, ‘grand’ and ‘got the job done’. I will certainly not hear Trump-like descriptors such as ‘terrific’, ‘amazing’ and ‘tremendous’.

Let’s stop being so self-effacing. It is a cultural thing in Ireland not to become ‘too big for our boots’ and to downplay our achievements. Modesty is an admirable quality to have and great if everyone demonstrates it. However, this is not the case.

When we compete for international projects, being shy and self-effacing will not win us any favours – or win us any new projects. Instead, we need to step up, announce our abilities, verbalise our victories, celebrate our successes and trumpet our tremendousness.

Pat Lucey is Aspira CEO and president-elect of the Ireland Chapter of Project Management Institute, which is running the National Project Awards to recognise project managers’ and teams’ achievements. The deadline for nominations is 1 September.

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