Pardon me for asking, but are you a winner? A whiner? Or a whener?

by Doug DeCarlo

For the first 25 years I worked in the business world, I subscribed to The Big Lie. Namely, that my ability to be a successful manager was determined by the corporate culture and the extent to which management made sufficient resources available to me.

Then one day, the moment of truth came along. I was teaching a workshop in project team leadership at a client organization where a pervasive victim mentality prevailed. During the workshop, Jeff, a project manager in marketing, was particularly outspoken about not having what he needed from management to be successful. "We don't get the budget, the authority, the timeframe, or the team members we need to get the job done."

I asked Jeff, "What if you were in charge of a project and the CEO walked into your office and said this was an important undertaking. He then went on to ask you, "How much time do you need?" And you told him. Then he asked you, "How much budget will you need?" "How many team members do you want, and who?" And you told him that as well. And then the CEO said, "You got it, and if you need more, just let me know." I then asked Jeff, "How would you feel about being in this situation?"

Jeff, without a pause said, "I'd be scared." I asked "Why?" "I'd be exposed," he said. "I wouldn't have any excuses." Interpretation: There is a built in payoff for us when we believe, complain, or perpetuate the thought pattern that we do not have what we need to get the job done. It's self-sabotage, resulting in a rationale for not making a commitment, and ultimately, for not being successful.

Whiners, Wheners and Winners
A Whiner is someone who complains that he/she can't do their job properly because the organization is mismanaged and project-unfriendly. "And it's not going to change in my lifetime." The letter "h" in Whiner stands for "it's Hopeless."

A Whiner who is optimistic is a Whener. The Whener says, "I'll be successful when I get what I need." Until then I am "Helpless," which is what the 'h' in Whener stands for.

The Winner says, "I already have what it takes to be successful."

A Whining vs. Winning Attitude

Which camp do you fall into?
TopicThe Whiner says...The Winner says...
Lack of resourcesWe are over-committed and understaffed. I'll find a way of producing a successful outcome with what I have.
Unrealistic timeframeI have to live with impossible, imposed deadlines.If I can't get the timeline changed, I'll ask for more resources and/or get approval for narrowing the scope.
Boss doesn't believe in Project managementShe won't let me spend the time it takes to do good project management. I know project management works. I'll use the components that make sense for my project.
Lack project management skillsTeam members assigned to me do not have project management skills.I will role model what I know about project management so others can learn and see the benefit.
Hierarchical organizationWe're not empowered to make decisions. Management makes them.I'd rather ask for forgiveness than for permission.
Insufficient technologyWe don't have the software we need to do good project management.I'll get what we need or find ways of being successful without it.
Culture is action orientedWe don't believe in planning.I don't need permission to plan and to identify risks and contingencies. It's my obligation to the organization and stockholders.
Lack of authorityI don't have control over people on my project. They don't report to me.The matrixed organization is a way of life. I can negotiate with, and influence people to do what's needed.
Project management training not availableWe don't have a budget for project management training.I'll use common sense, buy a book, join PMI, and pump experienced project managers for tips.

Making the Change: How to Go From Whiner to Winner
If you just learned that you have one or more Whiner characteristic, check the boxes below to indicate which actions would best serve you in moving from a Whiner to a Winner. It's OK to check no boxes.

(  ) Take some training to fill in the voids (assertiveness, negotiation skills, project management, etc.)

(  ) Find a job in an organization that has achieved a higher level of project management maturity

(  ) Seek out a different profession or career that's more in tune with my desires and skills

(  ) Get professional guidance counseling

(  ) Adopt the attitude of a Winner

If you checked the last box and ONLY the last box, you got the point. To be a Winner, all you have to do is change your attitude. It's a state of mind.

Nothing else out there has to change or be different before you can make a success of it. You don't even have to wait to accumulate more knowledge or experience. Sorry, no excuses.

If you checked ANY of the first four boxes, you qualify as a Whener, meaning you believe you will become a Winner when you have more training, a new career, work for a better organization, etc.

If you checked NO boxes, you are Whiner. You are stuck. You'll change when you get sick and tired of being sick and tired. Which could be right now. Because the good news is, whichever you pick it's always your choice. Nobody is coming to the rescue. You're in charge. So, which is it?
(  ) Whiner
(  ) Whener
(  ) Winner

eXtremely yours,


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