Travis Kelce screaming into the face of Chief's Head Coach Andy Reid.

Project Management: Sometimes We Take the Hit

Yeah, I know we were talking about low and no code solutions, but we are breaking to discuss a very important lesson that anyone who manages projects of any size needs to ingest to maximize the probability of project success. 

As a Program Manager, I have the extreme privilege of working with some amazing project managers. Recently, I had a conversation with a junior project manager who is facing some challenges managing and correling members of her very talented, very passionate, team. It’s a stressful project with a tight timeline and the team, as a whole, is working with great dedication to successfully meet the timeline. But, it isn’t happening without a good bit of stress. A key member of the team recently had a, shall we say, very heated outburst on the PM regarding a decision she had made for the good of the project. The team member is of great talent and contributes much to the project, but the outburst was unprofessional, and completely inappropriate. The PM is very upset, and wondering if she should remove him from the team. She asked for my advice on how to handle the situation. So, here it is:

Today we are going to briefly discuss an emotional concept that I term as the “Increase and Enjoy” versus “Suck and Destroy” approach to program and project management. But truly, it can be applied to many life situations. It’s a bit of an ethereal concept. So to set the stage, I’m going to use an example. Hang with me until the end; you’ll see where I am going with this.

I am a fair-weather football fan, at best. But, like much of America, I do usually participate in some sort of Super Bowl watch party. And, also like much of America, I was extra-interested this year because Taylor Swift’s boyfriend’s team was playing (Or, to put it another way, Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs).  My daughter grew up listening to Taylor Swift  (Tay Tay is our girl! 💃💕), but this was my first introduction to Travis Kelce, the handsome, talented tight end for the Chiefs. As a Swifty family, I was enchantingly watching T-Sizzle’s love story further unfold as her mighty warrior fought for victory upon a field of friendly strife. That came to an abrupt pause (cue scratchy record needle) when I saw Kelce aggressively chest-bump into 65-year-old Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, causing him to stumble backwards. As Reid calmly regained himself, Kelce continued to scream into his face until pulled away by teammate Jerick McKinnon. NOT COOL, Travis. But, the game continued, and the Chiefs won in overtime. 

When asked about the incident afterwards, Kelce publicly apologized and admitted his behavior was unacceptable. Reid brushed the incident off, saying in an article in The Guardian, “He was emotional today…I’ve got five kids, and I know how that goes. The part that I love is that he loves to play the game, and he wants to help his team win.” 

From a program and project management perspective, Reid’s response both while the incident was occurring and afterwards when speaking to the press was the real takeaway from the game. Coaches and PMs are quite similar. We are all responsible for organizing and aligning “the work” of our team members to best and most efficiently achieve successful conclusion of the collective endeavor. Coach Reid’s endeavor was to win the game. So even when Kelce entered ape-mode and almost knocked him flat on national television, Reid remained composed and focused on the game. He didn’t push or scream back. He didn’t take that moment to justify his decision to Kelce. He regained his footing, and went right back to coaching the Chiefs to their fourth Super Bowl victory. 

Reid understands that passionate, talented people under stress can sometimes express that talent and passion in less than desirable ways, especially when under enormous pressure. Coach Reid didn’t inwardly hold-on or retain Kelce’s negative behaviors or take them personally (the emotional “suck”), thus not allowing the outburst to sully not only that game, but their future collaborations (and here is the “destroy” part). In fact, Reid was able to put the outburst into a broader perspective of Kelce’s overall talent, passion, and contribution to the team (the “increase” of understanding and perspective) and thus maintain a calm, harmonious focus on his work  and allowing him to get the job done (the “enjoy” – from working with talented people to the thrill of project success).

So my advice for project managers in these situations: Assuming no threat of physical violence or defamation of character, etc., (of course!), put these types of incidents into perspective. You are the coach, not a player. Don’t fall victim to contagious negative behaviors induced by stress and wind-up inadvertently sabotaging the project from the inside out (Suck and Destroy). You can address the incident and any necessary corrections later, when emotions are not so strong. Instead, increase your knowledge and understanding of the situation and  remain focused on the bigger goal at hand to take the team and project to success (Increase and Enjoy)!💪🔥💯

And by the way, Travis Kelce: you were under an enormous amount of pressure during that game, from the actual playing to the rigors of having your rock-star girlfriend there, so we forgive you. But that was your one ‘“freebie”. Going forward, please make better choices regarding your reaction to events that are worthy of our Blondie’s prince.😘

Ready to take your digital technical program or project to Super Bowl champion status? Then GO TEAM and Contact TPS to get started.