Even Jesus Needs a Project Portfolio Manager

For the second time in my life, I’m on a church council.  For those of you who’ve been on a church council before, you understand that’s two too many!  They’re political.  They’re emotional.  They’re at times completely irrational.  Even though opinions usually come with good intent, it doesn’t take long for our group of 11 to have 14 different ones.  Meetings can quickly go off the rails and nothing gets done.

Our Pastor says, “Jesus calls us to our strengths.”  In the case of a church council, Jesus needs a project manager.

As a council member, you will never, ever, make everyone happy.  Don’t even try.  I gave up on the first council I was on.  I instead focus on my strengths that add value.  These include:

  • Meeting Management: we go to enough meetings, so we know how to create agendas and keep them on track
  • Budgeting: a problem for 99% or churches but on the surface we understand what money we need to run operationally and additional funds required to deliver new projects
  • Prioritization: there are 100 requests coming in every year with enough money to fund 2; we’re good at helping prioritize so the right things get done at the right time
  • Accountability: if you commit to doing something, you’re committed to doing it and we’ll make sure you do; no we’re not being mean, this is just what we do
  • Follow-ups: “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer, but we’ll follow-up on it and get an answer
  • Future-looking: there is more than what’s happening today and this year; we know how to talk to people and understand changes, both internal & external, that will impact us in the future
  • Communication, Communication, Relationships, and Communication: congregational members are our shareholders and I don’t get a lot of time in front of them.  I’ve learned to deliver a quick, crisp message as well as finding informal ways to meet with members during fellowship time.  They know who I am and I do my best to build relationships.

But, amidst all this chaos and countless hours I put in pro bono, I actually feel OK about doing it because I’m serving a larger purpose.  A company focuses on profits.  Though money is always a concern with churches, you’re serving a community and helping leave a legacy.  But helping lead that legacy is no small task!

If Jesus calls us to our strengths, then He definitely needs a project manager on His staff to get things done!


Be Careful What You Wish For; You May Actually Get It

“Holy crap, I didn’t think I’d actually get selected!!”

For the last two years I have thought about putting my name into a lottery to run a marathon.  This isn’t your average marathon, though.  This is a trail run along the north shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota in September.  They only allow 400 runners for the marathon, so there’s a lottery to be get selected.

When I finally entered myself into the lottery, I was fairly confident I wouldn’t be picked.  Given the number of applicants and return runners, I was sure my $110 entry fee if selected was safe.  But alas, when I got the email yesterday saying “Congratulations!”, my heart skipped a beat.  My credit card was charged.  My name is on the runner register for the world to see.  I’m committed.

So now I’m off to create a training plan that not only includes putting in the miles, but also hitting the weights.  This race boasts 11,000 of elevation change.  Living in Fargo, ND, I don’t have much opportunity for elevation variation (in one 14 mile run I did there was literally 58 feet of elevation change).  My wife also said I need to understand the risks given this is a trail run through the woods with little support if I got hurt.  Or what if I get eaten by a bear?

I had a goal this year to run a race that was more extreme.  I guess that’s going to happen.  Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it!



People Are Not Commodities!

Let me start this off with a summary of a conversation I had with a recruiter friend.  He and I have known each other for 10 years or more.  I moved, but he calls intermittently to see if I know anyone for openings with clients.  He’s smart and has a lot of industry background.  But, our latest conversation was a bit shocking and frustrating:

  • Recruiter: I’m looking for a project manager with at least 15 years experience and can handle a few multi-million dollar projects at once, as well as manage a few project coordinators.
  • Me: What kind of project?
  • Recruiter: Big data, which they also need to have experience in.
  • Me: I know of one person who’s at [XYZ Corp] as the program manager for a large data migration and warehousing effort.  They’re coming off February 1 and are looking.
  • Recruiter: We can’t call them program managers because they want more money.
  • Me: Money aside, I’m assuming you want the right person.
  • Recruiter: Project managers are a commodity.  If you get a few good ones bidding against each other, the hourly rate goes down and margin goes up.
  • Me: You’re shittin’ me, right?  You can’t get a Lexus on a Pinto budget and even though you’ll find someone at a lower rate, they’re probably not going to be what the client needs.
  • Recruiter: Well, that’s the game we have to play!

People are not a friggin’ commodity!!  When you’re a commodity, your brand basically becomes indistinguishable and you compete on price.  Look at some of the budget airlines; low price but service is lousy.

We all have selling features that make us unique and valuable to our current company and to future organizations we may work for.  Don’t sell yourself short.  If you do, you’re setting a precedent for yourself and others in your career.  Also, don’t let a recruiter sell you short.  Take control of your brand and don’t turn into a commodity!

As for my recruiter friend, our conversation went on a little longer with a few more colorful metaphors being tossed around.  But, we’re still friends and I hope we talk again in the future.

via Daily Prompt: Shock

“I’m Busy” is a BS Excuse; a Lesson From My 7 Year Old Son

My schedule for the day goes something like this:

  • 5 AM: up and to the gym
  • 6:30 AM: home, showered, changed, lookin’ adequate
  • 6:50 AM: making the kids’ breakfast, find socks, pack bags, and make myself coffee before I lose my mind
  • 7:48 AM: at work
  • Noon: Lunch maybe, or just more work; depends on the day
  • 4:45(ish) PM: leave work
  • 5 PM: quick dinner and out the door again to swimming, a practice, church council, who knows OR open laptop, start working on something (writing articles, working on something for church council where I’m the president, PMI presentation, Cub Scout information since I’m a den leader, etc)
  • 7:40 PM: sit down with the family for a little bit
  • 8 PM: receive BS email that is “urgent” and needs response tonight
  • 8:52 PM: kids to bed (this can be a lengthy process)
  • 10 PM: bedtime for me with hopefully 15 minutes of time to read before I nod off

Just typing makes me realize life is hectic and we feel like we’re constantly running.  But my 7 year old son taught me a very valuable lesson about priorities recently.

“Dad, can you help me?”  “Dad, can you play Nerf wars?”  “Dad, can you read me a story?”  “Dad, can you spend time with me?”

Without even thinking, my response is usually “I can’t right now buddy.  I’m busy doing [insert random task].”

Well, this time he snapped.  He yelled “YOU’RE ALWAYS TOO BUSY FOR ME!!  WHY DON’T YOU SPEND TIME WITH ME?!  EVERYTHING ELSE IS MORE IMPORTANT!”  With tears in his eyes, he walked off.

Admittedly, I was mad at him at first.  I work my butt off to make money to put food on the table and a roof over our heads.  I’m a church council president and yes, I’m working hard for the congregation.  I write for a couple online publications and have committed to doing so for a few years.  Why is this kid so upset with me?

The answer was simpler than I thought; I used the excuse “I’m Busy” to prioritize other things above what should matter most (in this instance, spending time with my 7 yr old).  “I’m Busy” became my battle cry for not being focused.  “I’m Busy” was the lazy way of saying “I don’t know what I should be doing.”  “I’m Busy” is a bullshit excuse.

Granted, I need to spend some time with my kiddo building relationship capital so when I am very busy and can’t play, he’ll be more understanding.  However, I won’t say “I’m Busy” when I tell him I can’t play.

Now, translate this to work and we hear it all the time.  Maybe a team member needs help and you’re too busy, causing a possible delay in a deliverable.  Or, you need something from your boss and they’re too busy to respond.  Maybe you take the risk and just do what you feel needs to be done, but what if you’re wrong and it’s a costly or time-consuming mistake?  Every time your knee jerk reaction is to say “I’m Busy!!”, take a step back and quickly evaluate your priorities.  Maybe you’re not as busy after all.