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I was lucky to moderate the Project Management discussion in the Business Track this past weekend at WordCamp LAX. What surprised me the most about speaking to the people I interviewed was how passionate, articulate and candid they were about their topic. When asked about times they screwed up or made mistakes, not one hesitated to tell me a story how they messed up and how they fixed it.
I interviewed Taylor Aldridge, Creative Director at 10up.com, Blossom Wright, Project Manager for TylerDigital.com and Nathan Tyler, Principal at TylerDigital.com. Prior to WordCamp LA, each speaker had to come up with three bullet points about their topic. I then reached out ahead of time to have at least an hour long conversation so that we could get to know one another. On each call I specifically asked about how they deal with problem clients or team members.
Taylor is a genuine problem solver, which is unique and not unique for his position as Creative Director. In his long career, Taylor has made mistakes, but he doesn’t seem to dwell on them. Sort of chalking them up to small learning moments. Taylor seems to have this radar for issues, before they become problems. He’s so tuned in to the health of a project that he appears to see it coming. He speaks to the client immediately when starting a project and gets a feel for how the client speaks, acts and conducts themselves. Once the data is stored in his brain, he plays out the process of working with that person in his mind, circumventing the heated issues, before they surface. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone before that has the ability to articulate what they are thinking so well.
Blossom is one of those kind of people that when you talk with her, you think you’ve met her before. Indeed I had, at previous WordCamps, but our conversation felt like old friends catching up. Her demeanor is persistent, polished and unassuming. We spoke about Fostering a Collaborative Environment and ironically, that’s exactly what she was doing with her team when I called. They were at her place having a co-working session. When I asked her about problems she’s encountered in her career, she said, “well, stuff happens and you just keep going.” Blossom has several tools she uses depending on the situation. Clearly tools she’s developed over time. One thing that interested me the most, was that all of her solutions involved going directly to people and talking to them.
When you meet Nathan, you immediately want to hang out with him. He’s nice, listens intentionally and has a great dry sense of humor. Nathan has been in this business a long time and had multiple roles over the years, which has given him a broad quiver of experience to pull from. He approaches problems carefully and methodically. He is a programmer after all, so he approaches his business the same way, expecting errors to be in his code the first few times around. He’s not phased by mistakes and says he’s learned a lot over the years. His business is purposefully lean and he intends to keep it that way. Hoping that I threw him a curve ball, I asked Nathan on the phone, “What do you do if a developer just isn’t working out and isn’t responding to help?” Pausing for a brief moment he said, “Well I probably won’t work with that person anymore.”
We often believe that making mistakes is disastrous. In the media, corporate mistakes are amplified and the witch hunt ensues. To Taylor, Blossom and Nathan, mistakes are just another expected part of the journey to which they build and hone their at the ready tools. Their casual reaction to their mistakes is because the mistake was never the problem, it was what led up to and what followed after the mistake that they think about.
I really enjoyed and felt privileged to get to know Taylor, Blossom and Nathan a little more and look forward to staying in contact well into the future. Please follow @tayloraldridge, @blossomville and @CroixHaug (Nathan).