9 Ways to Be a Lucky Project Manager


Have you noticed how some people seem to be lucky in life, or lucky at work? Have you ever wondered how that happens, why some people have good fortune?

My dictionary defines luck as, “Events beyond our control that seem to be subject to chance.”

As project managers, we seem to deal with more than our fair share of  “events beyond our control.” This is a similar definition to that of project risk, which I define as uncertainty that can affect outcomes. So, if certain events seem to be outside of our control, then how can we make our own luck?

The key word is “seem.” If you want good luck, you need to get an edge. And to do that, you must find ways to influence events that seem to be outside of your control.

And that’s where preparation and planning come in. The Roman philosopher, Seneca, is often credited with having said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” What Seneca is telling us is that we need to carefully train and prepare ourselves. Then, we need to keep a watchful eye open for the chance to apply what we have learned.

Let’s explore practical steps you can take to become a lucky project manager: here are nine ways to influence your luck.

luck in project management

1. Luck Isn’t Always Random

The first thing is to recognize the difference between random luck and consistent success. You can’t influence the outcome of the roulette wheel. The laws of chance tell you that. So, unless you’re the house, you’ll lose more than you win.

But getting lucky with a parking space is different. If you turn up early, you’ll have more time, and you’ll be less stressed. So, you will have more opportunity to find a place to park before you start feeling unlucky. And, when you do, you’ll feel lucky.

So, luck is not really a random thing. As Seneca is alleged to have said, it’s more about the interaction between your choices, and the random events beyond your control.

Preparation is more than turning up early. Getting a parking space isn’t only about turning up to the car park early. It’s also about looking at the map and deciding which parking garage to choose.

So, preparation means you can respond better to events and spot opportunities more often. If half of luck is turning up, then the other half is knowing which chance to seize.

2. Lucky Project Managers Ask Good Questions

Another way to spot opportunities is to hear about them from other people. And the best way to do that, is to ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more you learn. And the more you learn, the more luck you have available.

Neil Rackham revolutionized sales training by teaching salespeople to stop advocating and to start inquiring. When they made that change, his sales people started getting luckier.

It’s the same for project managers. You can use knowledge to give you an edge. Be curious about the organization you work for, the people around you, the plans and motives that are in place. The more you ask, the more you learn.

Curiosity is the golden ticket to learning more. And the more you learn, the more connections you can make. And connections lead you to see patterns that allow you to see what’s coming around the next bend.

3. Preparation Is Nothing Without Initiative

Don’t just prepare. What lucky project managers are best at is going out and doing stuff.

If you wait for luck to fall in your lap, you could be waiting for a long time. The more you take the initiative, the more chances you have of getting lucky. This is what we mean by “making your own luck.”

I can’t help it: I like the word proactive. Though I know some people hate it!

4. Re-Frame Bad Luck

You win, or you learn. This is what I was once taught by a sales trainer. It’s a great way to re-frame losing.

If you want good luck, you must take the initiative, and sometimes it’ll go wrong. For every success, there are plenty of failures to learn from along the way. Each failure is a step towards success, but only if you learn from it.

And a strange fact that psychologists tell us is that we learn faster from our failures than we do from our successes. This is all very well, as lucky project managers do make a routine of lessons learned reviews.

5. Harness Good Luck

“Win or learn” is great. But why is it a choice? Can’t you win and learn, too? Of course you can. And it seems that the most successful people make a habit of reflecting on the outcome of every initiative or decision.

Acknowledge every success. You’ll start to feel lucky because what you notice becomes your truth. If all you notice is bad luck, then you will feel unlucky.

If you are good at your craft of project management, you will get most things right. We do learn quickly how to move from poor to good, by fixing mistakes. But, we will only get from good to great by finding what works and figuring out how to perfect it.

Reflection is key to learning luck. Win or lose, reflecting on your experiences and the lessons you can learn from them is how we develop wisdom. And one way of thinking of wisdom is the ability to make the choices that will bring you good luck.

6. Lucky Project Managers Move On

It’s easy to dwell on bad luck—even to brood on it. That’s wrong, and it diverts your attention away from what’s happening now. As a result, more things will go wrong, and you will get into a spiral of “bad luck.”

When things go wrong:

  • Put them right.
  • Find the causes.
  • Learn from them.
  • Move on.

Things will change as soon as you do something differently.

7. Lucky Project Managers are Generous

“You get what you give” is another folk saying that plays into how you can get lucky. Because making the effort to be generous is another form of preparation. It’s like sowing the seeds that will grow and repay your consideration.

Be open, honest, and generous to your team and your stakeholders, and they will reciprocate. Share your luck and others will help you get more. When your team and your stakeholders like you, they will be happy to work hard for you and support you. They may even be on the lookout for opportunities to help you.

8. Identify as Lucky

Labels stick. Whatever word you put after “I’m …” often enough, will dictate how you think of yourself.

It’s easy to take setbacks as being:

  • Personal: “It’s me.”
  • Pervasive: “It always happens.”
  • Permanent: “It’ll never change.”

These are only true if your choices make them so. This Three-P approach to thinking about your setbacks is a route to depression.

Instead, make a habit of noticing your successes. Then apply your Three-P thinking to them. That way you will start to feel lucky, see more of your luck, and get luckier still. Remind yourself: “I’m a lucky project manager.”

And don’t devalue luck. Some people will tell you that it’s better to be a good project manager than a lucky one. They will think that luck is entirely a matter of chance. I hope, by now, you know that this isn’t the case. Luck is almost entirely a matter of preparation, initiative, and reflection. There’s one other factor…

9. Lucky Project Managers Work Hard

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” You know a quote is a good one, when it’s ascribed to multiple (wise) sources. I think this one is Samuel Goldwyn, but it could be Gary Player, Thomas Edison or Benjamin Franklin.

But the truth is evident. If you trust to chance, you’ll get what life throws at you, and 50-50 is the best you can hope for.

If you work hard, your good luck will be down to you. And if you keep working hard, it’ll start to get pervasive. And if you keep working hard…your good luck will stay.

Will things sometimes go wrong? Of course.

Does bad stuff sometimes happen? Definitely.

But if you do the right things, you can consistently beat the odds. That means more successful projects.

Let’s face it, you only need to look at Las Vegas to see what having a slight edge has done for casino operators. They prepare, they take the initiative, they learn every day, and they work hard.  The result is simple: multi-million-dollar profits, every year.

Luck is often defined as when events randomly turn out in one’s favor. If that’s the case, there’s nothing lucky about ProjectManager.com. Our cloud-based project management software is designed to help managers plan, track and report on projects in real-time with a collaborative platform and online Gantt charts to help with flexible scheduling. Get lucky and take this free 30-day trial now.

Related Posts

Back to Blog

Get the Best PM Tools for Your Team

Start a Free Trial