Dealing with a team of people is very hard. Knowing how to get the best from them is even harder. There are plenty of books on the hard skills of how to run a better meeting and how to make a better project plan. But there doesn’t seem to be many books on how to work with people on a project. Who has the responsibility to do this is the Project Manager in the business world? There is a unique skill set for someone to be able to lead a team of 50, 100 or even 1,000 people. How are you going to do this? Well, I have 40-years experience at doing this. I have two claims to fame, (1) Magellan, and (2) a dish antenna for “DIRECTV”.

In aerospace, I worked with the people who invented radar, lasers, satellite communications and the inventors of digital and wireless applications. I was the Project Manager for the first three-foot (one meter) antenna that became DirecTV satellite communication. We needed to put an antenna in the President’s plane, and in the B1 and B52 bombers that could be used for communications during a nuclear event. One day my boss called me into his office and said that Hughes Aircraft wanted to commercially spin off the antenna we were designing and working on.  And as he said, “put it into everyone’s attic.” I thought that this was neat as taking aerospace products and going commercial with them was a hot topic.  This antenna later became the antenna for DirecTV.

Later, I decided to go into the commercial world. I landed a Job with Magellan as the Project Manager for what we then called the Global Position Satellites (GPS) Low-Cost Vehicle Navigation (LCVN). We wanted to make a device/product for GPS Vehicle Navigation in 2003. We were the first company to put a hard drive into the device. Garmin was our main competitor and their vehicle navigation product required users to download the maps from a CD. Our tagline was “Turn it on and go.” We had ten months to design, build prototypes, beta test, get to full-scale production, and launch the device into Best Buy, Circuit City, and Costco. I led a team of 55 people. We worked through the spring and summer, day and night, and we delivered two days early to Best Buy. What a wonderful feeling!

So, What Does It Take to be a Project Manager?

Think about it this way: you are the captain of a ship. What would happen if the shipmates did not have a plan or understand their objectives? A Project Manager is the captain of the ship/project in business situations. You need to be tough and persistent. You did not get to where you are by being hesitant or weak-willed. You/they are the ones who have to totally understand and make sense of what needs to be accomplished. What are the true objectives of the project? You are in a major storm with 50-foot waves and 100 m.p.h. winds on the high seas and you are the captain of the ship. How are you going to get the ship into port?

How do you deal with multiple personalities and cultures? You need to be highly adaptive, and a great listener. Remember, you may not be the boss of the people who work with you in a matrix organization, but you are the “Boss of the Project.” You need to treat each person as an individual who has different quirks about them.

If you think going to Mars is difficult, try dealing with relationships! 

It takes fortitude and determination to get a project through all the major wickets. You have to pay attention to the finer details and maneuver through each one to get to the goal line of finishing a successful project. Each person makes a difference. It up to you, the Project Manager, to determine how to get the best from each individual to make their contribution to a successful project.

They will have a sense of pride when they finish a successful project.

You need to become a student of emotional intelligence and understand why people do what they do. What fundamental human traits are they following? Okay! So how do you help them do that?  Remember, if they look good or do good, it only helps you and then you look good.

You also need to have heart for this is what leads to courage – not a closed heart, but an open heart.

Heartless leaders don’t know how to be open and kind. Having heart and showing you have heart is tough. It’s not something you can measure. I also know an open heart will feel pain and that a closed heart won’t. Wise leaders know that having a kind heart is essential, especially when leading a group of people and doing tough things. The foundation of extraordinary leadership is heart. The longer I lead, the more I respect leaders with heart – pushing, forcing for results. Pushing for results is ordinary in everyday leadership. But, pushing and forcing for results and having heart at the same time is what make some leaders extraordinary. The essence of having heart is the commitment to connect on a human level with people.


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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David Shostak

David Shostak

Contributing Author

I am a world-class, versatile and dynamic leader who is an extremely successful Senior Program Manager with superior skills and have led every aspect of high technology programs, with over 40 years experience in many technical diversified fields.

When you think of someone who has all the leadership skills in one package I am the model for this and for getting the best of and motivating people. I have created product, program plans, market strategy, marketing roadmap and given major presentations to senior business executives, government officials, customers for developing new markets.

I am one of the fathers of GPS for vehicle navigation. I drove handheld consumer products to market on time and generated over $150 million first year and $350M second year with Magellan RoadMate GPS Vehicle Navigation Product and because of my dedication and diligence, the product made Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Things List for 2004.

I am is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) for over twelve years. I am a highly accomplished book author, published articles and an authority on public speaking.


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