(The morning after the project launch party)

This week I was having lunch in the Krasnapolski Hotel in Amsterdam with the marketing manager of a large multi-national, discussing the launch arrangements for my book 'Making a Difference', when the conversation turned to the last step of my nine step approach to problem solving: ‘coping with that hollow feeling of success’. She asked me exactly what I meant by it and did I really believe it (she had read the title in the table of contents on the book’s website)? I replied that nothing could be closer to the truth, and sure I believed it, after all I had felt it often enough.

When you have been sweating over a project for over a year, and you have pulled your team through all kinds of troubles, motivating and re-motivating them into action beyond the norm. And when you have fought off all the politicians in the company that would pull your project this way or that, battled with suppliers to get them to simply deliver what they promised, within time and on budget. And when you have broken nearly every rule in the book, to ensure that your client gets exactly what they need and in the form that they want it, it’s really no surprise that after the champagne reception, when the last sandwich has been eaten and all there is left over, is a half full bowl of potato chips (that somebody accidentally spilt red wine into), then yes, you might well go home feeling down or depressed.

“It’s normal”, I told her, “you and I are the kind of people that push the boundaries, that put all our passions into our work. When we finally get the result we want, it can only be too short lived. There is no amount of ‘thank yous’ that can compensate for all the effort invested”.

In my book, I give an analogy with climbing a mountain and indeed, there are similarities. I once met a professional mountain climber at a dinner party, and he spoke of exactly the same sunken feeling, once he reached the summit – but then he had to climb back down again. At least for us, we only have to walk from the bar to the waiting Audi A6! The worst we have to face is a possible parking ticket.

However, wait for a few days after the party, and someone around you will say something that sparks off an idea. A thought that makes that small part, way back in the back of your brain that says, ‘hey, now that sounds like a challenge!’ The next thing you know, you are right back at step one of my nine steps, analyzing the real problem to be solved and beginning to write a scope document for a brand new project challenge! Some of us are just built like that, and our partners have to put up with it, we can not change – it’s just the way we are.

In time, you can look back at projects gone by and remember with fondness their ups and downs. In fact, what the client said or didn’t say at the launch party event, is completely immaterial, they like you, couldn’t find the right words either.

An after thought:
In the UK there are special retirement homes for musicians, perhaps we should build some for interim and project managers (the interim managers will have the luxury apartments on the upper floors and the project managers, smaller ones on the ground floor and in the basement).
I can imagine every night, the ex-managers telling more and more exaggerated stories of projects that were delivered in the most unlikely circumstances and in the most impossible of timeframes!
The only real downside to the retirement home would be that there might not be enough women residents. For a reason unknown to me, there simply are not enough of female interim and project managers. Oh well, I suppose I will have to make do with the female nurses. Hopefully they will be young and pretty and sit with me, listening to all my stories with great interest and attention? Or perhaps we could let marketing managers in as well? 😉