In project management world of precision, structure and organised processes and procedures, it’s quite common to look from the top at creative marketing visionaries.

They talk a lot, jumping from one idea to another, like implementing useless meetings that have no actionable items or results, messing up with processes, changing their mind and coming up with last minute “awesome” ideas. At the same time, it is very uncommon to acknowledge that there are things that Project Managers suck at.

Olga DrobyshevaI’m a Project Manager from head to toe, with a Mother Russia hint to it. Working in Mindvalley as a marketing and vision-driven company should have been a nightmare for me. Well, there was a moment when it almost was. But then I realized that I should simply learn how to deal with it. We have a saying that can be translated as, “To live with wolves you need to howl like a wolf,” which has a slightly different meaning from the English one (my Mother-Russia kicking in).

So, I started learning how to communicate with creatives, how to navigate this ever-changing world and, most importantly, how to be heard, understood and accepted in this world. And things that I’ve realized and started learning are really great skills, that can be applied in any area of life and are truly game changing. No project management book/class/framework/etc. will teach you these. I learned them from marketers!

1. Bring creativity to your process

You may be surprised how much creativity there can be in managing a project. From coming up with creative solutions, to presenting those solutions creatively.

The latter is highly important. Creatives, like many people, digest information best when it is visually well presented. Brainstorms become more productive and fruitful when you use visual tools. Even getting approvals is easier when options are visually available, when a decision maker sees it the way it is going to look like in the end. Simple example: if you want them to decide between blue and red for the background show it in two options (sounds obvious, but not everyone is actually doing it).

One of the main jobs of a Project Manager is to deliver a message. The best way to do it is not always words, but visual creative presentation. A good example of it—my work with a remote team in Vietnam, that hardly speaks English. When I was briefing them about the project, I realized that they couldn’t quite get the essence of the idea, the big picture… and I started drawing. I draw like a 5-year-old, but it doesn’t matter, since the message is delivered.

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One-page release plan for a year: Goals vs. Development Plan (business presentation, not tech plan)                  

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One-page team-syncing production process (overview)

Recommended resource: “Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment, Innovation, and High Performance” by Davis Sibbet

2. Sell-sell-sell

I used to hate selling. I tried to do some sales jobs before… not my cup of tea. As a project manager, I thought I didn’t need that at all. Turns out some sales techniques can be particularly useful in life. What you need to sell:

  • Sell what you do. Project management job happen “behind the scenes,” so people don’t always see or understand what you do. Well presented results of your job will get you more respect and trust. I’m not talking about bragging and showing off. Adequate reporting on, let’s say, how you optimized production work by X% (and you really did) supported by visual data will do.
  • Sell solutions and ideas. Even the greatest idea may not be accepted if it’s not well articulated. Learn to talk with persuasion, empowerment, learn to use the audience’s “pain points” and appeal to their goals.
  • Sell yourself. In a shiny modern world you need to shine. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be who you are. It simply means you need to open up and let people see how cool you are.

Recommended resources: “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini and any public speaking book/class you can find

3. Pay attention to copy: written or spoken

I’ve been told off few times that words I use are demotivating, negative or one-sided. If I was not told off, I could see that I was misunderstood or misperceived. That made me sad and frustrated. I wanted people to take me for who I am.

Later, though, I realized that it is very important to structure your sentences in a way to give people full information, discuss not only negatives/road blocks but also positives/solutions. Try not to mix it with your personal attitude to it (which was difficult for me as I do have an attitude… no, The Attitude).

We project managers deal with risks and constraints all the time, so that we often forget that there are options and opportunities. We learn to say “no,” forgetting that our main job is to provide solutions (it’s more of a “no, but…”). When communicating, all this reflects in our language, to the extent that people start seeing us as a constraint. Especially with creatives, who want to have choices, options, variations…

So learn to communicate. It applies to all spheres of your life, even your mental dialogue with yourself.

Recommended resources: just start watching how you speak—it will change your life 🙂

4. Embrace change in a changing world

Brace yourself: change requests are coming. Nobody likes changes. In our subconscious mind, it is perceived as a danger (we can’t control it). I learned this the hard way. In a creative world, there’s nothing more stable than change.

You know how many times we changed the colours of 30X30 program covers from blue to red and back? Sometimes, sales page copy changes happen till the very launch of the product. We tweak scripts while recording the video. I once deployed a webinar three minutes before it started, because we wanted to add some edits.

And you know what? It’s okay! As long as changes make sense and bring more value to the customers.

Look around, the world is ever-changing. Be a bit more flexible, but don’t bend like grass to every blow of the wind (see the paragraph above). Communicate the risks, provide options and support valuable changes.

Recommended resources: remember, life is something that happens around while you are making your plans. Take it easy.

5. Be positive and have fun

This especially applies to Mindvalley, you may say 🙂 This is both true and untrue, depending how you look at it. Here, at Mindvalley, we also may work long hours, stay in the office till late, have emergency situations. We can complain and whine about it. Or blame some creative soul that messed up a bit, however unwittingly. Instead, we get together and deal with it, with a good dose of laughter and fun. A bit of hustle mode that marketers are famous for never hurt either 😉

One of our launch managers and also my dear friend, Anna C., always has a theme for every launch she does. It is fun, it brings people together and bonds the team. As a result, customers get great content—and we get successful launches. The whole company waits for next Anna’s launch and what theme she picks up next. Watch yourself 🙂

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Recommended resources: check your local pizza delivery, make a list of uplifting songs, take a mental note of a fun story to tell to your team while deploying/rendering/fixing/testing…

Never stop learning from people around you!

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