Project Managers on TV
I happen to love TV and occasionally indulge in binge-watching an old favorite, new Netflix special, or awesome/terrible reality show through the weekend. Sometimes I relate to a particular character and their situation, especially if it's project-related. This summer I was watching Game of Thrones when some zingy exchanges between Tyrion Lannister (an insightful and witty character) and Daenerys Targaryen (a self-proclaimed queen) sounded VERY familiar to me—I realized I've talked down clients in a similar way on many projects myself.
Before that, I've sympathized with reality show hosts trying to wrangle contestants into shape (Tim Gunn is totally a project manager), underdogs to root for who have to deal with impossible situations (Pam dealing with Michael, on the Office), and the sometimes-forgotten, almost always right second-in-command character on sci-fi space shows. Here are a few other PM character I've noticed through the years:
Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones
In the show, Tyrion uses his experience of a royal, political, and estranged upbringing to advise a newly self-titled queen on how to win back the kingdom she feels is rightfully hers. He battles difficult strategic decisions, justifying those decisions with his experience and knowledge, and balances giving that advice with knowing when to back down. He's a fantastic example of everything we deal with on projects with tricky or difficult stakeholders.
My favorite PM lessons from him: someone can seem knowledgeable on a subject without actually knowing about it at all (so true!), and that everyone before you has tried to reinvent the wheel—something that clients AND project teams alike can tend to want to do, as well.
Liz Lemon, 30 Rock
Liz Lemon is a tragicomic protagonist we can all relate to in some way. She is a solid project manager to her team of writers and actors on her sketch comedy show: constantly going to battle for her team (to the point of *ahem, not recommended* going on a date with an auditor in a misguided attempt to prevent layoffs on her team), regularly talking her show stars down from various feelings of impostor syndrome, and constantly dealing with fires so everyone else can get on with their own work. I can relate to the frazzled-but-proud feeling of avoiding a near-disaster with project stakeholders, or presenting a case to upper management and winning a small victory for my team.
My favorite PM lessons from Liz: there is definitely such a thing as going too far to gain favor with a team (that flu shot episode is rough), honesty and integrity are the best policy when working on projects, and having a mentor can help a lot in problem-solving difficult situations.
Ann Perkins, Parks & Rec
While Leslie Knope is probably one of the most type-A personalities that exists on TV, her best friend Ann Perkins is a secret project manager in the background. Ann supports Leslie's dreams and goals by always being there with practical advice, pushing the visionary back towards reality just enough to make things possible. While both characters are best friends, they represent project teams pretty well too: they've seen each other at their best and absolute worst, aren't afraid of a little tough love, and are also unfailingly supportive of each other throughout all of the good and bad.
My favorite PM lessons from Ann: guide visionaries with a gentle but supportive hand when reality needs to weigh in, support for a project comes from a strong core relationship and understanding, and a little tough love and practicality go a long way in a difficult situation.
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