Lesson one: Know when to shut up.

When you’ve made a mistake and you know it, the last thing you need is your instructor lecturing you on the bleeding obvious. My dad was an old world colonial who frightened me until the day he died. However when I was learning to drive a car I was much more comfortable with him beside me than even my older brothers and sisters. Dad was a master of knowing when NOT to say anything.

My life coach has this expression which she attributes to her dad. Your words must meet at least two of the following three criteria. Otherwise keep it to yourself.

  • Criteria one: That it is true

  • Criteria two: That it is necessary

  • Criteria three: That it is kind

The answer to ‘does my butt look big in this?’ may not be true but it’s kind and the taxi is not going to wait long enough for another dress change (necessary). I once told my boss that he had a body odour problem. It wasn’t kind but it was true and his position put him in contact with clients and staff regularly (necessary). I started by telling him that ‘this is something that only a friend is going to tell you’. ‘This won’t hurt a bit’ is kind and necessary because you need the victim to sit still, even if it’s not quite true. Remember the criteria and before you speak, ask yourself does it meet two of the three?

Lesson two: Cut the volume (amount)

We’ve all been told many times to avoid jargon and use language which is going to be meaningful to your listener(s). The same could be said for levels of detail. If you’re explaining a technical problem to management, be careful to include every detail directly relevant to the decision at hand and only those details directly relevant to the decision at hand. Be prepared to explain technical concepts if necessary. Avoid tangents and back-stories. Be clinical, dispassionate and patient. How you respond to ‘how’s it going’ will depend on who’s asking. From a technician the question is about technology, perhaps an opportunity to help. From a manager the question is about confidence in the next deadline.

Happy project management. Remember your mission. Keep your ego in check and if it helps, think about how much they’re paying you 🙂