Leadership in project management: What we can learn from butterflies and cocoons

We know that all projects involve struggles. Struggles that make you and your team stronger and more confident. In my school days, I once observed the developmental stages of a beautiful butterfly. My grandmother and I were walking through our corridor and there was a hibiscus plant in the courtyard. We noticed that a young caterpillar was eating a hibiscus leaf. Curiosity increased and after a few days we found a silvery cocoon hanging under the leaf. This was really an amazing moment for me. Imagine the stress of a butterfly, how a caterpillar later becomes a beautiful, colourful butterfly. Have you ever imagined that? We can apply the same concept to project management. How can a project manager overcome all difficulties and use them as lessons learned for future projects?
A blue butterfly. [1]
Nature is a wise and profound teacher. If we are attentive, we can also learn from it for our projects. We can compare the project management cycle to the life cycle of a butterfly. It is a step-by-step process.
 
The project management life cycle is as follows:
1. Project initiation
2. Project planning
3. Project execution
4. Project monitoring and implementation,
5. Project completion
 
The butterfly life cycle looks like this:
1. Egg
2. Caterpillar
3. Cocoon
4. Emerging butterfly
5. Adult butterfly
 
During the project management life cycle, we as project managers can make many improvements and innovations by embracing the struggles and hard work of the caterpillars. That is, if we can apply the best practices or frameworks during the project lifecycle, it will enable us to deliver the project well. They know that both knowledge and experience are our real treasure rather than how much we spend on a project. Our outcome should be a goal, our work should be towards a common goal. If a butterfly can hatch from its cocoon without support, why shouldn't a project manager manage a project by using its multiple skills with support?
We can use both our intellect and our competence to master a complex situation.

The landscape is constantly changing

Because of this pandemic and the subsequent shutdown, the landscape of projects and project management is changing. Over the last two decades, many organisations have advocated for improvements in project management. Project managers need to have both project-based and business-based decision-making skills. The trend of project management is changing every year and moving towards growth and diversity. As project managers, we need to demonstrate an efficient and effective way of working.

Think like a leader - think outside the box

You can have a positive attitude even under the worst of circumstances because attitude is a choice. A leader must take responsibility for the attitude they render, just as the leadership team must bring the right attitude from the moment to the present situation. Leadership determines everything: As a project manager, you should have more than just management skills, but also leadership skills. Always keep in mind the best ways to use the latest tools and techniques.
Do you know who is the king of the beasts? It is the lion, who is neither bigger than an elephant or a giraffe, nor faster than a cheetah. Nevertheless, he is the king of the jungle because of his leadership power. We should have a sound knowledge of all the frameworks and act as a leader rather than a manager. Try to develop a mindset that allows you to think outside the box.

Testing relationships and the level of commitment

We know that the foundation for the success of any project is detailed stakeholder management. Stakeholders are those who have an interest in your project's outcome. Typically, these are the members of a project team, project managers, executives, project sponsors, customers and users. Stakeholders are invested in the project and are affected by the project at all times, and their input can have a direct impact on the outcome. It is advisable to have good stakeholder management and to constantly communicate with stakeholders to work together on the project. If you maintain comprehensive transparency between team members, the project will run smoothly even when you are on leave. Assess the project environment and analyse the context. Always test the level of relationship between the organisation and the project team members and check their joint commitments. Commitments should be achievable and meet the client's requirements; always ensure thorough monitoring to fulfil the commitments.

Do not waste energy living in the past

Passion and consistency are always required for a project manager. Work towards a path and work towards a keyword. The project manager and project team need to get together in a room to name the current strengths and look for improvements. All companies today strive for growth through innovation, but there may be limited opportunities. So it can be said that we need to grow and develop according to the global environment. If we can update our mobile applications at the same time, we can update our knowledge, and those who grow according to the requirements can only be good leaders. 

Determination and team motivation - work for that

Have you ever heard of the inspiring story of a deaf frog? It says: "Be deaf to negative thoughts". When a frog decided to climb a tree to reach its top, all the team members made noise. After all, that's impossible. Is it? No! Because the frog was deaf and thought his team members would encourage him. As project leaders, we can also motivate our team by keeping deaf to conflicts and negative thinking in order to achieve a common project goal. 
About the author: Mahesh EV is a project manager with more than 11 years of practical experience and the Senior Official of the IAPM in the metropolitan regions of New Delhi, Trivandrum and Calicut, India. Mahesh's implementation of many procurement and construction projects has broadened his experience. He has demonstrated his skills in the successful planning and execution of several projects, such as thermal power plants and renewable energy projects across India – from kick-off to handover of the plant.
He is a member and volunteer of various international bodies like Axelos-UK, affiliated member in OCRM-UK and he is a content writer for the IAPM Network in East Java (Indonesia).

Key words: Project management, Psychology, Personal development

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