I am often asked, “What is important to the project manager (PM) outside the PM profession?” There can be multiple answers to this question and all of them would be correct. It depends on what a PM wants to accomplish professionally and personally. Do the two have to be perfectly in synch? The answer is no, but they should be somewhat complementary. So what is the balance for a PM? I can’t answer that question for you, but I can tell you how I do this myself.
Be Charitable with Your Time and Expertise
In this time of tight budgets, both organizationally and personally, be charitable with your time. You see the term “time is money” doesn’t end just with your profession. I belong to several networking groups, some of which are email only, some of which have monthly meetings. I do my best to attend at least six monthly meeting a year for each of the latter groups. I also am open to meeting with anyone one-on-one to network. This networking session can be done via a telephone call or at a coffee shop and the meeting can last from 15 minutes to an hour. It depends (there’s that term again) on the person requesting to network with me. We can share any number of things, from tips to contacts to a good job lead. I always consider the meetings to be two way. Just because I happen to be employed at the time does not mean that I don’t think the person I am networking with is without contacts that would be valuable to me.
Donate Your Time but Don’t Overextend Yourself
As PMs, we must be judicious with our free time. We not only have work to consider, but also our home lives that may include significant others and children. So we cannot overextend ourselves, or to put this in PM terms, allow scope creep in our personal lives where we are so busy we don’t focus on our own needs first. So pick one to three charities to commit your valuable time to. How much time really depends on how much time you have to commit. Considering that this would likely be during the evenings or weekends, once again, you must be judicious with your time.
Once a year I attend, along with some of my fellow Princeton Toastmasters, a session with the Special Olympics of NJ (SONJ) where we give athletes pointers on being better public speakers. This is usually a one-day session where we work with the athletes and then they give a short presentation. I can’t tell you how rewarding this is to me and my fellow Princeton Toastmasters. It really is a fulfilling day that leaves each and every one of us feeling as if we have just conquered Mt. Everest. I look forward to being part of this day every year, not because of what I can give in terms of communication skills, but in terms of what I can learn from the athletes and about myself.
My son Robert is an Eagle Scout, a laudable achievement of Boy Scouts. When he was starting out as a Cub Scout, I was his Cub Scout leader, as well leader for the other eight boys in his den. Now I make a monetary contribution to the local Boy Scout council. Contributing funds to worthy causes is important, however, contributing time is more valuable, in my humble opinion.
Additionally, I also participate in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society MS walk every year. That takes about four hours one day a year, where I raise money for a worthy cause. Also, on my blog, you will see the website for another worthy cause, Pennies in Action (www.penniesinaction.org). My wife Marie recently conquered breast cancer using a vaccine in combination with standard treatment and she is now involved with this charity to help bring the solution to all women. We recently attended a fundraising dinner for this cause.
Now, among these charities, I devote all of about three days of my time, which does not include my network groups. Considering what I get out of this it is without a doubt, a valuable investment of my time. You have to consider which charitable events you would like to contribute your time to and how much.
Lastly, be consistent. When you commit, do so wholeheartedly. There has been one year each where I could not make the SONJ event or be in the MS Walk, but those were anomalies due to my work schedule. I have been consistent regarding whom I work with and which charities I contribute to. No matter which cause you support, be consistent with your time. And by all means, be judicious.I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine. You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.