By Cyndee Miller
Whipping up tapas and shaking cocktails isn’t your typical day in Project Management Land. So why was I watching master chef José Andrés prepare seafood delicacies as PMI President and CEO Sunil Prashara played mixologist? It was all part of the fun—and the learning—at the first gathering in PMI’s Virtual Experience Series: “My Work. My Life. My World.”
Not to sound too much like a fangirl, but I went into the conference really looking forward to the presentation from Andrés. (And no, this wasn’t just about his salt air margaritas). This fellow is one impressive manager of projects. Not only does he helm more than 30 wildly popular restaurants, he’s also creating super-smart solutions to hunger and poverty through his non-profit. Along with the group’s disaster-relief efforts around the world, it also stepped up its response to the COVID-19 crisis, delivering 150,000 fresh meals in dozens of U.S. cities every day.
How does he do it all? Well, along with demonstrating how to create some tasty tapas from his home in Spain, Andrés also revealed his personal secret sauce: You’re only as good as the people around you. To have success, you have to provide others with the opportunity to succeed, Andrés said.
That means teaching them how to adapt. While projects certainly require planning, there are just too many variables in the world to cover everything, he said. And often, the one you didn’t plan for is the one that happens. “The communities that will be successful today will be the ones that are ready to adapt to any circumstance,” Andrés said.
Sometime that means breaking out of the same old patterns: “Don’t be shy of big, bold ideas,” he said. “This keeps you going. This keeps you motivated.”
The idea that people and purpose are “critical to business success” as the hype goes is not exactly earth-shattering. But what struck me was how the concept resonated just as much with a superstar Spanish chef as it did with a strategic lead at a U.S. healthcare giant.
“People are what make things happen,” said Wale Elegbede, PMP, director of strategy management services at Mayo Clinic.
That’s true whether it’s putting together small plates in a Spanish restaurant or transforming a big company. “We’ve seen in our research that the successful organization sets itself apart from others by transforming not just the organization, but the employees,” explained Emil Andersson, a project manager at The Brightline™ Initiative.
And those people need purpose. “The biggest mistake we make in any type of gathering is we assume the purpose is obvious,” explained Priya Parker, author and host of podcast Together Apart. “Always start by stating the purpose of a meeting. And then connect people to the purpose—and to each other.” That’s especially true for next-gen team members: Millennials and Gen Zers need to “work for purpose, not just a paycheck,” said Foodeo CEO Marcel Furmie, PMI-ACP.
To create a team of true changemakers, though, project leaders must build trust. “Trust provides a sense of safety,” said Dan Mircea Suciu, PMI-ACP, of Babeş Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, during a presentation on the neuroscience of project decision making. “And when team members feel safe, they’re more productive—and more comfortable taking appropriate risks.”
Missed out on the action this time around? Tune in to the next Virtual Experience Series event on 25 August with The Daily Show host Trevor Noah. I’ll be there.
In the meantime, let me know in the comments below: How do you help the people around you succeed?