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Episode 137 Premium: The Hero in us all - The moral of the story

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Episode 137 Premium: The Hero in us all - The moral of the story There are two big changes coming your way with this episode of The Project Management Podcast:

So if you are a premium subscriber and you use a podcast app then a PDF transcript of the episodes will automatically download to your computer. I expect that the transcript will be available about 3 days after the audio version of the interview is published.

In today's interview we are once again welcoming Michael Aucoin ( and back to talk more about the right side of our brain and project management. In particular we want to talk about Chapter 18 of his book Right Brain Project Management, which is titled The Hero in us all – The moral of the story. Michael suggested this chapter for a more detailed look because so many people enjoyed this chapter and thought that it brought much value to them.

Click "Read more..." below to read the transcript.

PM Podcast Episode 137 Premium Transcript


Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: This is The Project Management Podcast. We bring project management topics to beginners and experts. Find us on the web at or send your emails to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to this premium episode number 137. I am Cornelius Fichtner.

This is The Project Management Podcast™ for the 17th January [2009], nice to have you with us.

This Premium Episode is once again recorded especially for you, the subscribers of the premium Project Management Podcast.

And before we get started, here is something new: We are now creating a transcript of each Project Management Podcast episode. That's both one transcript for the free and one transcript for the premium episodes. But this transcript is only available to you, the premium listeners. There’s nothing at all that you have to do. If you are using iTunes or a similar software to access our premium RSS feed then this PDF document will automatically be downloaded to your computer. I expect that the transcript will usually be available about 3 days after the actual interview is published.

And in today's interview, we are once again welcoming back Michael Aucoin to talk more about the right side of our brain and project management. In particular, we want to talk about Chapter 18 of his book “Right Brain Project Management.” This chapter is titled “The Hero in Us All – The Moral of the Story.” Michael suggested this chapter for a more detailed look because so many people enjoyed this chapter and thought that it brought much value to them.

Here we go.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview. Today with Michael Aucoin, PE, PMP, President of Leading Edge Management and author of “Right-Brain Project Management".

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Michael! Thanks for coming back and talking to us some more about your book “Right Brain Project Management: A complementary Approach.” Welcome!

Michael Aucoin: Thank you, Cornelius and thank you for having me back again.

Cornelius Fichtner: Oh sure. So we’re opening up the book this time and in particular, we want to talk about Chapter 18 here, starts on page 285 and it is titled “The Hero in us all – The moral of the story.” And we’re talking about this particular chapter because you told me that many people responded quite positively to this. So what’s the overall premise of the chapter? What will readers find in it?

Michael Aucoin: Just an introduction to that. It can’t be that people said that they liked it so much because they realized they’d finally got into the end of the book.

Cornelius Fichtner: [Laughs] Oh yes, it is the last chapter in the book. I’d realized that.

Michael Aucoin: But now that I’ve gotten that out of the way. The overall premise of this chapter is it’s really good that we work on our project management skills and our project management chops but it’s perhaps more important that we also grow as human beings grow in character and maturity. And this is because many of the critical issues on projects particularly the stuff that keeps us awake at night, the stuff that makes it hard to get things done that works, many of these challenges hit us very personally and to master them, I think we need to look at something deeper than the domain skills or the techniques or the tools. We need to be willing to grow in character.

I talked in the book about what I call stretch projects. And these are projects that may involve some demands. It could be an aggressive schedule. Hence, it could be high velocity, new technology, could be virtual teams scattered around the world. Perhaps, we don’t have the resources that we need. All of these things reveal our limitation or another word you could for that is reveal our weaknesses and that’s tough to deal with. We may want to avoid that. Unless we go through a process of internal change and go through that struggle, we’re going to continue to have this challenge. We’re better off as people and also as project managers on this project. If we step up to the challenge and go through it and that can be tough.

What is interesting about this is that this process is a universal human experience. It’s been told in countless stories for thousands of years and it’s the story of how a character goes through adversity and develops through adversity. Most people will recognize this even if they don’t know the name of it as the hero’s story. It’s the journey of the hero.

For example in the movie “The Matrix” looking at Neo. He goes through this process where he becomes something more than he had been before. The projects that you and I face are more mundane than saving the world like Neo did but they still have the same process, the journey through adversity.

Cornelius Fichtner: One of the most surprising statements in this chapter is when you say, let me find it here, it’s under “Becoming better at projects.” Your statement is “I learned to swim and became a better project manager.” Please explain that statement.

Michael Aucoin: It’s really embarrassing for me to say that. I didn’t learn to swim until I was 34 years old but there it is. I developed fear of water, fear of swimming and fear of boating and it only grew deeper as a teenager and as a young adult. It became sort of a nemesis to me. So finally at age of 34, I couldn’t avoid it anymore and I learned to swim just like any five-year-old would do because it’s fairly learnable skill.

I felt really good after doing this because it was a like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. What was surprising to me was that other areas of my life started to go more smoothly and perhaps most surprising was that my projects also started to go better. I think what happened was that something was imprinted in my mind. Something like if I can learn to swim then I can do X, I can do Y. It was a metaphor. It was like an analogy. So I grew in maturity and it benefited my projects.

Cornelius Fichtner: So would you think that other people could find similar success if they overcome their personal fears and then that might translate into them becoming a better project manager? Obviously, it may not be swimming. It could be I overcame the fear of heights and therefore became a better project manager?

Michael Aucoin: Yes, I absolutely believe that. I think one way of looking at that is that we grow in confidence and that’s certainly true, but I think there’s something at play here. And I also talked about this in the chapter as well or elsewhere in the book in that we go through stages of emotional development as human beings. The more mature that we are in emotional development; the research has shown that we are better at managing people and managing projects.

The key issue there and it’s a key issue because as we get involved in stretch projects and we have to deal with ambiguity and complexity, we start to feel internal conflict. We don’t know which way to go, what’s going to be the consequences if we choose one direction over another. Individuals who are less emotionally mature have difficulty handling that internal conflict and so they get stuck there. And that was what’s happening to me with the swimming issue and perhaps other people with fear of heights.

Once we are able to step up to these challenges, we’re able to work our way through this internal conflict and I think that’s the key skill that’s involved here. That’s what the step up and emotional maturity is at that point. It’s confidence, yes, but it’s confidence in the sense that I'm handling internal conflict because I know that I'm going to get through this and it’s a powerful skill, powerful metaphor that gets us through a lot of other things.

Cornelius Fichtner: Excellent segway because I’d like to take a look at another quote from that chapter where you said the following “Research and experience correlate project success with maturation and ego development and emotional intelligence.” How do we go about developing in these areas: Ego development and emotional intelligence? What can we do to grow here?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete PDF transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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