Back From the Brink
Project management lessons from famous leaders
The beginning of the year is when we usually make goals for the coming year. The problem is, we all have been hanging on for such a long time. We are thinking in terms of survival, rather than planning our goals, and that's a shame. But for now, let's talk business and project survival for 2011.
Remember a time when you were playing a game that you really wanted to win, but you were losing instead? My first time occurred when I was 9 years old, and I was losing a baseball game 20-0. Worse, it was my first-ever game in Little League, so it was kind of traumatic. It seemed I stood out there in right field for hours, and we just couldn't get anybody out. Know the feeling?
For you, maybe it was that football game that got out of hand, and it seemed like your defense just never got off the field.
Maybe this is your situation at work, with your company: really, really tough, and it's all you can do to hang on. You're thinking about throwing in the towel. Can you relate?
Well, Team, meet W.C.
W.C. is a guy you would have loved to meet. You see, with W.C., it wasn't just about losing a baseball game, or a football game, or a business. With him, it was all about losing much more: a country – maybe even Western Civilization.
W.C. is actually Winston Churchill, who became Prime Minister of Britain in 1940. He led his country through some really tough years, when it looked as if his country would, in fact, be destroyed. And if his country fell, then the rest of Europe would. But Churchill had a resolve that he would not let it happen!
W.C.'s Project ManagementWe're talking about being committed to winning and surviving. As Churchill took over the leadership of England, with the Battle of Britain in the skies over London just about to begin, he let everyone know that the road was going to be difficult. He told them that he could promise them only "blood, toil, tears and sweat."
As fire rained down from the skies, and London was ablaze, he reminded his people:
"You ask, 'What is our policy?' I will say; 'It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.' You ask, 'What is our aim?' I can answer with one word: 'Victory – victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.'"During the Battle of Britain, while England was standing alone against the German war machine, listen to Churchill's resolve in his broadcast to the nation, February 1941, before the U.S. got into the war:"We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire...give us the tools and we will finish the job."A month later, America began giving England the tools. As contractors, project managers and business owners, we should really relate to that one. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job. He is speaking to us.
As Britain hung on, and Germany gave up on the air war idea, Churchill again addressed the people, and acknowledged their accomplishment. Then, specifically thinking of the relatively small handful of pilots who had fought to save the country, he said:
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."Team…we're the pilots of our companies today!
During October of that same year, Churchill gave what many considered his finest speech. I'll just give you a bit of it to consider here:
"But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period…this is the lesson: Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
"We stood all alone a year ago…our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours…this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated."Very different is the mood today…instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer."Churchill had responsibility for 47 million people. He was out-gunned, but he was not out-played. How did he do this?
Well, Churchill had some help. He entered a "joint venture" with the United States and the Allies. He received counsel from some of the most brilliant people in the free world. Said another way, Churchill had some coaches. He was part of a MasterMind group of the highest order. In other words, he didn't rely strictly on just what he knew. He sought the advice and strategy of others. He partnered with other countries (for us, companies) with similar goals: survival, freedom, profits.
If you are going through some dark times – who isn't? – get some good advice. I highly recommend coaching. The discipline of coaching really helps me, and I'm sure it would help you, too.
You are a leader – on your projects, in your business, in your community and in your country. Don't ignore lessons from history and common sense. Today's lesson is that people have overcome far worse situations than those we find ourselves in right now. In the midst of this economy you can still find opportunity.
Never give in!
About the Author
Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at FullContactTeam@gmail.com.