You’re a bulldog. You walk into a room with your spiked collar and everyone knows you’re in charge. You curl back your lips revealing fangs that let everyone know you won’t be taken advantage of.  You own the yard and everything happens exactly how you want. The pack follows your direction without dissent and is better together with you as their leader.

You’re a project manager. You know how to deliver in any situation, at any level of complexity and with any business executive. When you’re presented a project, you are the main event, the top shelf, the E-ticket. When you take over a failing project, you’re Trevor Hoffman, Harvey Keitel. Rambo.

You’re a huge success. You drive through all details, assess all team talent and understand every aspect of the project you are delivering. Your sponsors call for you because they know what to expect when you drive a project. They fully support the approach you need to take to deliver an initiative when technical complexity, hostile political culture or changing business landscapes present major barriers to success.

You’re no longer needed. You righted the ship, tamed the tide, saved the game. You managed the crisis and delivered beyond anyone’s expectations. But you established strong relationships and realized this company provides an environment and culture you’re comfortable with. You’d like to stay but the difficult times are over and the original softer culture is again being enforced. So, what do you do when they needed a bulldog, but now want a pussycat?

Many project managers succeed in delivery by following established methodologies and frameworks within their organizations. They use the tools learned from project management training, seminars and experience gained over time. Bulldogs seem to carry these capabilities as an extra chromosome. There is only one way to succeed and it’s in their DNA to ensure that happens. Now, you like where you are and you want to stay. But the project management methodologies have changed and the bulldog approach will no longer match the culture. Can your chromosome be tamed?

You want to stay. You’re a strong project manager, which means you understand how to identify risk and assess probability and impact. It’s time to develop a risk matrix to help drive your decision.

  • What is the probability you can continue to be successful in the new environment as a bulldog?
  • What is the likelihood you could become a pussycat if that’s what the culture demands?
  • What is the impact on your happiness in an environment that demands you deliver differently than what your DNA exhibits?
  • Can you develop mitigation strategies to allow you to be effective in the new environment?
  • Should you accept these risks or avoid them altogether?

But perhaps you are looking for something different or a new challenge. If you perform a skills inventory assessment of yourself you may see strong abilities in leadership, communication and attention to detail. But are you as capable in collaboration or delegation? Could you be successful as just a participant in a large steering committee? How well can you negotiate with resource managers for time from their staff? Can you pivot your focus between projects as needed to adjust to working within a highly governed project portfolio?

So many things are important to delivering a successful project. Some projects need a bulldog to reign in wary participants or unrealistic sponsors. Some need a softer touch and support and understanding from leadership. The things that have made you successful before aren’t the only ways you can succeed within a softer culture. Where you may have been a task master or strict accountant on some projects, a successful project in another culture may simply mean adjusting scope to meet the changing needs of a sponsor. You may be completely successful by merely adjusting schedules and updating budget forecasts and accruals.

Perhaps the culture of such an organization may allow you the opportunity to expand your bulldog skills into other areas. Could you focus your tenacity on other efforts such as developing new workflows and project artifact templates? Could you apply your attention to detail in ways that develop better processes or to improve staff performance? Perhaps it’s time to think about leveraging the power of that chromosome to move into management.

As a bulldog, you’ve probably already assessed your situation and come to a conclusion whether you will fit and be happy with your changing organization. But, hopefully, you took a little time to assess what you really want and if there are additional opportunities for you to apply your skills.


Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Jeff Gurley

Jeff Gurley

Contributing Author

Jeff is passionate about coaching others to become project management stars. His expertise spans across finance, healthcare, telecommunications and government industries. He is a graduate-level instructor in project management courses and leads educational seminars and writes articles concerning both delivery and management aspects of the profession.

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