The knowledgeable young lady at the state park nature center was reviewing the trail options with us.

You know, stuff like trail attributes.

 Levels of difficulty. Time to complete.

Essential information one needs before setting out on a mountain hike.

After all we needed to be able to complete the hike. And get off the trails before dark.


I didn’t hear a word she said.

 It was that humongous snake!

The one in the aquarium. The aquarium uncomfortably close to where we were standing.

Yes, that snake had my FULL attention! 

If anything can distract me, it's a snake!

Are you distracted on your project?  Of course you are!

What about your team? Are they distracted? Of course they are!

Are these distractions setting you up for unnecessary challenges?


We had three trail options.

Should we take the easy trail? No way. That would be, well, too easy!

The very strenuous trail then? Uh, no. We had no desire to be on the evening news for having been airlifted out!

So, we took the moderately challenging trail.

Is that how you view your project when you are first getting started? Moderately challenging?

You know, the kind of project that certainly isn’t easy, but also doesn’t require heroic actions to complete?

Instead, a moderately challenging project. The kind that needs your skills and expertise. And your leadership.

We were only fifteen minutes into the hike.

The trail was tougher than I anticipated.

The terrain was rockier than the smooth trail I envisioned. 

The piles of uneven rock stairs to climb had my heart rate high.

I thought my heart was going to jump out of my body! My Fitbit confirmed that possibility.

Why had I not imagined these things before setting out?

What else had I overlooked in my excitement to get started?

Why had I not thought through the hike and anticipated these things?

As a project leader you face mountains of challenges. Hardly a day goes by that you don’t have a challenge of some sort.

Safety incidents. Late equipment deliveries.

Schedule delays. Cost issues.

And lots of people problems!

Have you thought through the “what-if’ scenarios” of these potential challenges on your project?

I sure wish I had thought through the “what-if” scenarios before our hike. But instead I approached the first hike of the summer like a novice…as if everything would be smooth and without challenge.

Do you know, in advance, how you will handle a challenging situation, if, and when, it arises on your project?

Please tell me you do!


Our moderately challenging trail was 3.6 miles one-way.

In spite of the snake, (did I mention it was humongous?) I did recall the young lady say that we should go only as far as the halfway point as this was our first hike of the summer.

And that the trail after the halfway point is practically vertical. No, thank you!

Long before reaching the halfway point, I knew I needed a rest break to catch my breath, calm my heart rate and drink water.

Even though they didn’t need to take a break, my younger hiking companions graciously stopped with me.

And shared their water with me.

Why? Because I also had not brought ample water.

I was being bombarded with challenges!

I know what it is like to be bombarded by challenges as a project manager.

I was once a project manager. And I work with project managers virtually every day.

Project management is tough, even on the best of days.

As long as you are managing projects, you are going to have challenges.

It’s essential that you are prepared. That’s why when I’m coaching project managers, I help them think through the “what-if” scenarios so that they are prepared if, and when, those challenge hit them head-on without warning!

Right now, I want you do something.

It will only take 7 minutes.

Get a pen and piece of paper.  Set the timer on your phone for 7 minutes.

Write down, as fast as you can, some of the major what-if challenges you could potentially get hit with.

Circle the top 10 that you really need a plan for.

Over the course of the next week, get your key leaders in a room and collaborate the solutions - the “we will do THIS if this challenge arises” to the top 10.

And don’t let distractions keep you from getting this done.

That’s it for today.

Be bold and make EXTRAORDINARY things happen. Today.

See you soon.