Small Values

He’s up there in front of his PowerPoint display, gesturing at the bullet points:

“In order to ask the boss for more resources to complete the project, you need to understand her ideals AND her values.”

This was the chapter meeting for the project management group I’ve been part of for years. I love being here. We all have experience with the same problems. When we got together it is safe to share war stories. Part of the meeting was listening to someone give a talk on their expertise.  And we are all able to ask the questions and challenge what is being said, really chew on it.

This speaker had a good opener, “How do you get the project sponsor to give more money to complete the project?”

Indeed. That comes up a lot.

Ideals and Values? Per his definition, Ideals are what we aspire to, what we say we aspire to. Values are what we actually choose and pay for.  He went on, being all logical and full of good ideas. Pay attention to all the people involved in the process, even to the organization as a whole. Ask! Don’t assume.

I thought about all the times I’d worked with companies and been blocked and couldn’t get traction. Maybe this was the golden ticket. Maybe if I could pay attention to the true values of the management, not just was they say they are their ideals…

After the meeting was over, an old friend was talking to me. He said, “I had this one project I was working on, and I asked the manager for their top priority. He told me that money wasn’t a problem and that it was most important that it be done right.

So I was giving him reports and charts of the progress. We were having a big meeting and I show him my reports, everyone around the table. He excuses himself.

Then he texts the number 2 guy in the meeting and asks him to meet him in the hall because he couldn’t come back in the meeting to talk to me. Come to find out, money was their most important priority after all.”

People are complicated. We don’t really know our own hearts. And inside of corporations, each individual has to shadow box with what they think their boss wants them to say.

For me, as I try to think of my ideals and values about what job I should have next, I know I’m a contradiction. I idealize self-sustenance and long for entrepreneurship. I talk myself into it until I break down at the foot of my deeply held value of being in a big safe corporate job.

Just like that manager who said he wanted the project done right but turned to jelly when the bill came. We all hide our clay feet in superhero boots.

It’s not that it’s impossible to say what we really want, but it’s pretty close.

This last year, I made a goal to try to listen to my heart and pay attention to what I truly love, what inspires me and makes me happy. It’s a still and small voice, my heart. I can’t hear it if I am not paying attention. To put a fine point on it, I also need to pay attention for more than a minute.

See, I believe I can cherish my ideals and pay attention to my values. The fear that gives power to small values can be calmed. I don’t intend to play small and give in to fears my whole life.

I have to water and tend my ideals so they overgrow the small values. That takes listening and persistence. As I learn to do it for myself, I can do it for the corporate projects too. The team needs to be heard and inspired. So does the manager who is asking for the whole thing in the first place.

I falter and fall. Everybody does. But getting up again and trying is the beautiful thing.

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