Don’t you know who I think I am?

We’ve all found ourselves in those rooms. The meetings where we talk through how we do our work. Maybe it’s a project, or determining who will do what tasks in a team. When it comes to those discussions it seems strangely common to end up with chills up and down the spine. At some point during the conversation, there will be a moment when someone steps up and tells you they know how to do it all. Basically saying, “just do it all my way and nobody will get hurt”.

I’m not saying that there isn’t value in the sharing of ideas beyond your job description. Far from it. Please, share, question, challenge views and ideas. But let’s be honest, you’re not an expert on all things.

If you aren’t feeling well, are you more likely to trust the view of a doctor or something you just looked up on Google? With all due respect to florists, when building a bridge, would you trust a construction engineer or your local florist to successfully provide a safe place to drive your car?

Why then do many people, Project Managers in particular, believe themselves to be the best people to be experts on all subject matter? I’m sure that with experience in the project area you are working on you have picked up many useful bits of knowledge. You are probably going to perform well in your weight division in buzzword bingo at least. If you are really sincere though, you know in your heart of hearts that you aren’t a systems architect, or a design engineer, or a legal expert.

As a project manager you are often asked to herd the cats and bring the right expertise to each part of the problem. You definitely have an opinion on how things should be done. We all do, so don’t feel bad about that. The truth is though, what this lets you do is have a decent crap filter. It isn’t a replacement for years of training and experience. It allows you to understand the value of a person or team with that specific skill and bring that to enhance and improve your chances of success. Chances are, that person isn’t you, and that is OK.

People will respect you so much for surrounding yourself with good people and supporting them to apply their expertise. Even if you are on some topics, you’re not going to always be the smartest person in the room. It would be a great benefit if we all took a deep breath and remembered that more often.

The best project managers answer the question “do you know who I think I am?” with a very simple “I’m someone who can help us all get to the goal successfully together”.

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Nathan Jones

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