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Biggest Fear

What’s Your Biggest Fear?

(October 2009 Newsletter)

It’s Penny Pullan back again after a summer break! How have you been? Are you finding you’re busy at the moment? Me too! I’ve had lots of
exciting things happening, from deciding to write two books (more another time), being interviewed by national press  (see the Telegraph on October 21st), speaking at conferences and even registering for VAT (the UK Sales Tax).
But let’s get back to the purpose of ‘Making Projects Work’. I write it to help you to cut down on the hassle and stress of project work and to give you ideas that can make you even more successful! So, here goes:

The Biggest Meeting Fear … and how to deal
with it:

Imagine that you’re running a meeting. What’s the worst thing that can go wrong for you? For many project professionals, there is something that
seems to strike fear into their hearts. It isn’t about controlling risk or managing uncertainty or even getting things done without line-management authority. The topic that’s so feared is conflict, and how to handle it. So this autumn, I’ll be focused on conflict in projects, and what you can do about


Conflict, the word seems to bring up images of war and fighting. Perhaps that’s why so many of us are uncomfortable with it. But to refuse to
handle conflict because the word evokes wars and bloodshed is to get rid of the baby as well as the bath water.


Conflict doesn’t have to be pointless or destructive. It can be very positive in the right setting when it’s handled correctly. And in
projects, there are inevitable differences of view and perspectives… in other words conflict.


I like the perspective of the American writer Lencioni. He suggests something radical in his book “Death by Meeting”
Work meetings, he feels, should be far more interesting and engaging than sitting in a darkened room watching something on a screen with which you have no interaction. Work meeting versus film.


Which would you choose? The film perhaps? Depends which film?

Isn’t that a terrible indictment of our work meetings? Surely it ought to be more engaging to be interacting with others around a topic that affects most of your waking hours? Funnily enough, not too many people would pick the work meeting.


But work meetings could be great! In a meeting, people who are prepared to put forward different views from others have passion and belief if what they are proposing. Some of my clients are research scientists, who don’t hesitate to discuss alternative viewpoints. They don’t have boring meetings either. Co-incidence?

Lenconi suggests that we mine for conflict in our meetings, much as mining companies dig deep for gold and precious metals. When doing this, you
will need great facilitation skills to ensure that everyone gets listened to and the group progresses towards their goal. With these in place, expect to get much more out of your meetings.


Next month: We’ll look at conflict over time in project teams – how does it change and which elements are most important when?


Resources for you: 

  1. Leniconi’s book
  2. Our Facilitation Skills training for Project Professionals

All the best for managing your conflicts constructively,

© 2009 Making Projects Work Ltd., All rights reserved. You are free to use material from this Making Projects Work newsletter in whole or in part, as long as you include this attribution, including a
live web site link. Please also notify me where the material will appear.
“By Penny Pullan of Making Projects Work Ltd. Please visit our web site at www.makingprojectswork.co.uk.”