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Communicate, motivate, collaborate

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The pilot’s mantra
Airline pilots are taught the mantra ’Aviate, Navigate, Communicate’*. It stands to reason that they are there first and foremost to fly the plane and keep it in the air. Secondly, they need to navigate the plane to the target destination, and then to communicate with those who need to know what the status is, how the flight is progressing, any issues and so forth. For those interested in the eloquence of this, three is the magic number of literary composition**.

The project manager’s mantra
Now what about when it comes to project work? I suggest an alternative mantra:

‘Communicate, motivate, collaborate’

The first thing to do is to communicate. Project planning requires communication, risk management requires communication, issue resolution requires communication, stakeholder management requires communication. As project managers it can’t be denied that excellent communication skills are essential and we must use them.

Next the team needs to be motivated, to have drive and determination. If they do not have fire in their belly, it needs to be lit. John Kotter says ‘Establishing a sense of urgency is crucial to gaining needed co-operation’***. Let us inspire, encourage, embolden, and fire up the team to deliver.

Collaborate means to work together. Having communicated what needs to be done, motivated the team with the desire to deliver, we collaborate together, to complete the work successfully.

Conclusion: three powerful words

'Aviate, Navigate, Communicate'

Project managers
'Communicate, Motivate, Collaborate'


*'The Federal Aviation Administration ‘Fly the Aircraft First’

**Forsyth, Mark. The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase (p. 84). Icon Books. Kindle Edition

***John P Kotter, Leading Change, Harvard Business Press, 2012, Print




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  1. Merv Wyeth
    Merv Wyeth 08 December 2016, 04:20 PM

    Hi John, I like your project managers mantra. If it can be made memorable too so much the better. For example, I like to use "Learning, Motivation and Networking" [picture a LeMoN] when organizing conferences, meetings and events; aka #eventroi. Keep up the great work. Merv