When You Think an Acknowledgment has Backfired…
22 Sunday May 2011
I have had the honor and the privilege of working with Dr. Harold Kerzner, the Guru of Project Management, for close to 20 years. We have worked together on book publishing projects, global satellite broadcasts, International Project Management Day (IPMDay) programs and more. Throughout the years, I have been awed and amazed by his total lack of the one personality defect from which I suffer painfully: procrastination. For example, when we asked Dr. Kerzner and a group of other presenters to prepare a presentation for the 2010 IPMDay virtual conference, we had his back with all of his slides, and descriptions of content ready to go within a few days. He is always the first to deliver what is needed. And shortly after IPMDay 2010, he submitted his presentation for 2011. Can you believe this?
As the author of more than 45 books that are the most widely used and recognized throughout the project management industry, I started approaching Dr. Kerzner a few years back to write a book on “How NOT To Procrastinate!” as I was sure he had this down to a science. And I saw the book as having value not just for project managers, but for anyone and everyone in business. I repeatedly told him he was my hero in this domain, and began to do something I have been accused of doing throughout my career – not letting something go when I really believe in it, even when told to “give it up.” Dr. Kerzner politely refused me about six times. The latest was last week, when I received a flyer from a project management training organization about a course called “Stop Procrastination in its Tracks!” I forwarded that to Dr. Kerzner and told him once again how much he could help humanity with his observations and insights about procrastination, and what a difference this would make. His response? A firm “I will pass on it.” I wrote back (I never do give up, do I?), “Anyway, if you want me to drop this forever, you will have to be very direct with me. Otherwise, I will probably come back to you with new ideas from time to time for how to create this project painlessly and in a fun way!” His response: “Let’s drop it forever.” I wrote back, “Consider it dropped,” but by then I felt really awful – totally guilty and bad. My acknowledgment of his genius had only served to irritate this master. So I wrote a note of apology. I said, “I just want to ask your forgiveness for my over enthusiasm about a project that had no interest or importance to you. Hope there are no hard feelings.”
I didn’t hear back from him that day, Friday. I felt I had really gone overboard in my enthusiasm over his great skills and talents. And then the next day, on Saturday, I might add, I found a very teasing and humorous note from Dr. Kerzner about how he just hadn’t gotten around to kicking me off his “friends’” list yet because he was too busy, and had too much to do, but he had made the time to write a white paper called “The Deadliest of Project Management Sins: Procrastination.” I almost fell off my chair as I read it. And let me tell you, it was one of the most insightful, helpful and thoughtful pieces on the subject I have ever seen. I was going to write him a note expressing my shock and delight, but this morning, Sunday, I just had to call him. We have a history of his surprising me to humorous effect (on a couple of global satellite broadcasts for which he was the lead presenter and I was the host, for example), but this ”creation” officially took the cake.
Dr. Kerzner has given our company permission to use his white paper in any way we see fit, so I don’t want to spill all of his beans yet, but I do have this to say: on some level, Dr. Kerzner received and acted upon my heartfelt acknowledgment. He just didn’t let me know about it for a while…. So don’t think you have “blown” it when your acknowledgment does not appear to have the impact you hoped it would. It may come back to you later on, when you least expect and most need it to.
By the way, Dr. Kerzner also theorizes that procrastination is what stops many of us from delivering the acknowledgments that we have inside us. I am sure I will include this on my next book, Leadership and the Power of Acknowledgment. So thank you, Dr. Kerzner, for your ongoing, outstanding contributions to our profession and to the world at large!
P.S. I didn’t procrastinate about writing this post – at all! Maybe I’m learning from the master….