For the past seven months, I have been working as a Project Manager for the Presidential Debate that took place at UNLV last week. It was an amazing opportunity to be involved in such a high-profile event, and to see how much behind-the-scenes effort goes into putting together a project of that scope. I was fortunate to work with an incredible team who persevered through months of hard work to deliver a successful outcome. And even though it was stressful and demanding at times, I am grateful for the experience.
The Debate was definitely a unique project, unlike any I have worked on before (and probably unlike any I will work on again). Even so, it served as another reminder of a few key principles that are important for any job, regardless of size, nature, or objective: communication, teamwork, flexibility, and a positive attitude.
Effective communication is vital. Always. Whether it’s two people or 200, the ability to convey and interpret messages is essential to success. The bigger the project, the more difficult this can be, because it involves more people, more information, and more potential for errors. Be clear and concise, but also be prepared to offer more detail when needed, or to explain in a different way if necessary. And ask questions! It seems many people are afraid that admitting that they don’t know something, or don’t fully understand a request, is a negative quality. But, asking for clarity shows that you are making the effort to do it right, and can also save a great deal of time and energy.
Nearly all projects, regardless of scope, involve multiple people working together. And while combining different personalities can cause tension and other problems, it can also expose you to new (and sometimes better) ways of working. The key is to remember that everyone is trying to achieve the same goals – a successful project and a happy client. A team is strongest when people focus on the tasks they do best, so don’t be afraid to speak up when something is out of your wheelhouse. It’s great to be ambitious and want to expand your skills, but it’s also important that you don’t hold up the rest of the team while you figure it out. Take your ego out of it, and embrace the opportunity to both teach and learn from others.
In business and in life, change is constant. You can plan to the best of your ability, but the slightest detail can change and throw it all off course. But, rather than getting hung up on how things were supposed to be, or how they should have been, you’re better off going with the flow and adapting to the new direction (which will probably change numerous times along the way). Most of the time, these changes are out of your control anyway, so the best you can do is remain flexible, accept the new challenge, and show off your problem-solving abilities.
I’ve always believed that a positive attitude is one of the most important assets a person can have. Behavior is infectious, and the way you carry yourself (good or bad) can have a huge impact on those around you. This becomes especially important in high-stress, busy situations. You can complain about what is going wrong and bring others down with you. Or, you can remind others that, even when situations are not ideal, the best you can do is let it go of any negativity and keep focused on doing the best job you can do. Not to say that a good venting session isn’t therapeutic, because sometimes just verbalizing your frustration is the best way to move on. But, the longer you dwell on adversity, the longer you will stay unhappy, and likely bring others down with you. Instead, if you can take the challenges in stride, keep a smile on your face, and maybe even make someone laugh, you can keep the team moving forward in a positive manner.
Whether you are working on a small project with a few people, or a huge project with hundreds, these simple concepts are essential. No matter what the situation may be, if you communicate efficiently, collaborate well with your team, remain flexible, and keep a positive attitude, you are setting yourself up for success. And, you never know who you might meet along the way, what new skills you might learn, or what overall impact it could have on your career. I hope the Presidential Debate is just the first of many unique, challenging, and rewarding projects I will work on as I take Aardvark Girl into the future!