Project Management

Doing the Hard Work to Stand Up and Stand Out

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at

What does it take to be awesome?

That's a tall measure. It might take some people aback. It might feel a little too much like bragging for some to contemplate. It also might feel impossible to aspire toward. It may at least feel like something that is inappropriate or undeserved.

This brings us very quickly to an important observation: Many cultures—and many individuals—have a complicated and difficult relationship with the notion of success. While we might want to be exceptionally capable and talented, it is another thing entirely to be seen and recognized as such. Australia and New Zealand have an expression for this: "tall poppy syndrome" describes the cultural phenomenon of attacking those who are seen as being better than the norm. A nation that cuts down its tall poppies is one that does not tolerate success and achievement, excellence seeming to be some horrible affront to the concept of equality. The expectation instead is that everyone should be humble and strive to assimilate and no one should stand out.

Of course, some cultures don't have this problem at all. In point of fact, they have the opposite problem, one where everyone is seen—or at least they see themselves—as being extraordinary and unique. The problem is that in a world where everyone is exceptional, no one is. The challenge is that those who believe …

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"I'd rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate."

- George Burns