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Episode 240: Book Reviews: Do Nothing, Real Influence and Strategies for Project Sponsorship (Free)

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This episode is sponsored by The Agile PrepCast for The PMI-ACP Exam®:
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Episode 240: Book Reviews: Do Nothing, Real Influence and Strategies for Project Sponsorship (Free)

This episode of The PM Podcast will be especially interesting for all those among you who want to become better project managers, for those who love to read, or for those who fall into both categories. That is because our guest Elizabeth Harrin will give us her review of 3 books that are related to project management with lots of great takeaways for everyone.

The books are

Elizabeth also wrote a review for each of these 3 books on her website and I encourage you to stop by at because she does address a few angles on her blog that we did not discuss.

Episode Transcript

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

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #240. This is The Project Management Podcast™ at and I am Cornelius Fichtner. Nice to have you with us.

This episode of the Podcast will be especially interesting for all those of you who want to become better project managers or for those who love to read or for all those who fall into both categories. That is because our guest, Elizabeth Harrin, will give us her review of 3 books that are related to project management including lots of great takeaways for everyone.

The books are “Do Nothing” by Keith Murnigan, “Real Influence” by Mark Goulston and John Ullmen and finally, “Strategies for Project Sponsorship” by Vicki James, Ron Rosenhead and Peter Taylor. Elizabeth also wrote a review for each of these 3 books on her website and I encourage you to stop by at, that’s because she does address a few angles on her blog that we did not discuss.

But now without further ado, here are lots of good project management tips and tricks in the form of 3 book reviews.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Elizabeth Harrin, author, blogger and speaker.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Elizabeth and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™!

Elizabeth Harrin: Hello, Cornelius. Thank you very much for having me.

Cornelius Fichtner: Oh, absolutely! So I was reading your website “A Girl’s Guide to Project Management” the other day and I saw that you had 3 fabulous book reviews on there and decided to bring you on. Very well written!

Elizabeth Harrin: Thank you very much!

Cornelius Fichtner: Yes, and of course all our listeners are now frowning and going: “Oh my God, book reviews. I’m better going to turn this off. I’m not going to listen to this. This is not interesting.” Oh don’t worry people. Elizabeth is a project manager like you are, like I am. Elizabeth knows what we project managers need and trust me, the things she has to say about these 3 books, they are applicable to your projects and for each of these 3 books, we’re going to give you a couple of takeaways that you can most likely apply on your projects tomorrow.

Alright! So the 3 books we’re going to review are titled “Strategies for Project Sponsorship”. Then we also talk about “Real Influence”. But we are going to start by “Doing Nothing”. Well the book is called “Do Nothing”. Tell us a little bit about this book, Elizabeth. What’s it about?

Elizabeth Harrin: It’s called “Do Nothing” but it has got a subtitle which is :How to Stop Over Managing and Become a Great Leader”. And it’s basically the theory that you should be doing less of the doing and more facilitating other people to get the results that you want which I think is very applicable to projects because that’s what we do all the time, isn’t it? We have to take a step back and help our teams. Make sure they can have everything they need to be able to deliver a successful result for the project. So it’s really his tips for, it’s a guy called Keith Murnigan and it’s his tips for how do you make sure that you can be that hands off manager by being a great leader and by empowering your people to do what they need to do.

Cornelius Fichtner: Right. He also talks about Murningan’s Leadership Law, what is that?

Elizabeth Harrin: Think of a reaction that you want first and then determine the actions you can take to maximize the chances that those reactions will actually happen. So what it’s really saying is think about your own actions but don’t focus on that too much. What you need to really is focus on the what you want the other person to do. So instead of focusing all about on how you’re going to run the meeting, think about what you want the meeting to, what decisions you want made, what you want the team members to go away from that meeting and then do. Focus on the reactions that you want and then change your behavior to give you the best possible chance of getting that outcome.

Cornelius Fichtner: Now the title in itself is surprising because you know, we’re project managers. We’re supposed to be doing something constantly right and he tells us no, do nothing. Is there anything else that you found surprising in the book?

Elizabeth Harrin: Yes! He recommends that you scrap performance goals. And I found that quite a surprise.

Cornelius Fichtner: Interesting!

Elizabeth Harrin: Well, you probably have personal performance goals that you’ll set with your manager. But we’ll also have project performance goals, critical success factors, key success indicators, things like that. But he says don’t bother about those. They become irrelevant. As soon as you hit them, they are replaced with another target set by management. It’s all arbitrary.

Instead, he recommends that you put together learning goals so you’re aiming to learn from the work that you’re doing and get better. And I thought, that’s probably quite a good approach to use as a continuance versus improvement-type thing that we could use during post-project reviews.

Cornelius Fichtner: From your perspective, how does this book actually relate to project management? It seems more related to project leadership.

Elizabeth Harrin: Yes, but I think project leaders is where our project management is going. I think in 10 years, there will be very few people who are doing solely management in a project-related job. We all should be leading even though we might not have the grand title of project director, we might not be in a sponsorship role. We should all be trying to lead our projects rather than just manage the plan, manage the risk clock, manage the schedule.

And I think the whole shift that we’re seeing in project management towards being a more leadership skill is reflected in this book. So I do think it does have a relevance to the way project management is going and I think it is something project managers are going to have to face up to in the years to come. We’re definitely moving more towards project leadership.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright. So does he give us any tips, any steps, any approaches that we can follow in order to do nothing because before I can do nothing, I have to make sure that somebody else is doing something?

Elizabeth Harrin: Yes, exactly. He has 4 tips really about how you can unblock yourself and you could be a better leader. He says, the reasons leaders don’t get the results they want is because they suffer from these 4 problems.

  • They are egocentric. Everything is always about them. So he recommends we stop focusing on ourselves and like I said earlier, focus on the benefits that you’re bringing to the team and the results that you want the team to achieve.
  • He says leaders don’t they get the results they want because they lack empathy. They can’t put themselves in their shoes of the team members and really make a concerted effort to feel how the team members feel. If you can understand why people are reacting the way that they are, you will be able to get better results after them.
  • He also says that leaders suffer from believing that others understand them and I think whether you’re a leader or not, whether you’re a project manager or not, that’s probably something that we all suffer from, the belief that others understand exactly where we’re coming from. So you can send off an email to your project team and they will all know exactly what you’re talking about and understand you completely and that isn’t the case. So again, it comes back to being able to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and understand how your actions will influence others.
  • And finally, he says that leaders focus far too much on what they do themselves and again, not on how they can change those actions so that they can empower the people.

So those are his 4 tips really.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! Is there anything that you have taken out of this book that works for you personally that you think you know: This is something that I’m going to do on my projects going forward?

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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