5 things you can learn about being a project manager by organizing a community service project

Pink RibbonThis past weekend, I participated in a benefit walk to raise money for breast cancer research.
My team did the walk in honor of my grandma, so a large number of my family members and friends decided to participate. And although I can’t take credit for the idea, I did end up taking charge of most of the logistics and organization of the group. It turns out that you can learn a lot about project management by heading up a charity event and organizing a group of volunteers. So if you want to become a better manager, but don’t want to practice “on the job,” it might be worth the time to get a group of people together to do a good deed. In the process, you might find out the answers to these five questions:

·         Are you are an effective leader? – To be a leader, people need to follow you. By inviting people to participate in a community service event, you can gauge your ability to lead. If people are willing to give up their free time to participate in the event that you’re organizing, you’re likely going to be able to get your employees to help you with a work-related project. Granted, in a work situation, you’re paying people and they are required to follow you, but that issue is likely comparable to the loyalty that people feel to the cause that you’re working toward with your community service project. If you have trouble getting people to participate, however, don’t despair; you can learn how to be a better leader.

·         Are you able to organize deadlines and logistics? – This is one of the most important skills that a project manager needs to have (second only to having a complete understanding of the project that they are managing). Being able to keep track of all the details of a project is the key to finishing it successfully, and this type of project will give you experience organizing the details from registration to fundraising to the itinerary on the day of the event.

·         How good are you at communicating with a diverse group of people? – This was a big issue for me because I was organizing a group of family members of varied technology backgrounds and abilities, and I was organizing everything via e-mail and the Internet. Everyone had an e-mail address, but it really differed how much each person used e-mail and felt comfortable with that mode of communication. A community service project often brings together people of different backgrounds that are organized around a common cause, and will give you valuable experience in working with diverse groups of people, whether it is their technology or ethnic backgrounds that make them diverse.

·         Do you have the ability to get other people to help you? – I organized this event from 300 miles away, so I wasn’t at the family BBQs when much of the informal discussion happened. Some people who lived in town, however, kept me in the loop about what was talked about, and one person volunteered to help get a room for us to meet in afterward. A community service project will inspire many volunteers, and will teach you to take help when it’s offered – especially if the help that’s offered is with doing something that you can’t get done easily yourself.

·         Are you a creative problem-solver? – One of the problems with this event was that in order for my team to get the official t-shirts for the walk, we had to order them 45 days ahead of time. This was simply not possible as the majority of the team didn’t even register until 2-3 weeks before the event. My backup plan was to use a t-shirt guy that my husband knows – but his lead time was 30 days. In my desperation (I wish I could say “In my creativity!”), I headed to the Internet where I found a slew of online t-shirt providers that could ship customized t-shirts within 7 days (as long as I rushed the order). This completely alleviated the stress of trying to get this done before I was physically able to. Snafus like this one are bound to come up with any project that you manage, providing many opportunities to try to think creatively about the problem to come up with a solution that won’t take all of your time and will get the issue solved.



~ Today’s view: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13799608@N08/1470099903/

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