You've just invested your precious time in a project management symposium, conference, or training class. Congratulations on being proactive in your project management development. But how can you take action after a symposium to obtain the full benefits of your learning?
Here's the problem we all face when attending a project management symposium. Things at work don't stop, do they? More emails and voicemails have arrived. New problems have popped up. It can take days to recover.
But, if we fail to take action from the symposium soon, we forget what we've learned. Our motivation to change wains. And our personal growth—that we so badly want—does not occur.
It's frustrating, isn't it? You've gained some new knowledge to advance your career. How can you review and reinforce your learning? What's the trick of transforming your newly gained knowledge into powerful skills?
"Don't fear failure. Fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today." —Michael Hyatt
If you are reading this it means that you're struggling to mature as a project manager. You watch others get their certifications. You see more junior project managers getting the promotions. Your peers are getting the salary increases. Why not you?
Just because you have practiced project management for a long time does not mean that you are getting better. Perhaps you have this gnawing feeling deep down inside that you aren't putting in the effort to mature as a project manager.
And it's frustrating because you are capable of more...way more!
We must not allow our excuses to hold us hostage. Examine them closely.
Furthermore, let's up our game, serve others, and reach our greatest potential.
Think of the project managers you admire most. Often, these are individuals who possess more than the technical skills such as developing project schedules and performing risk analysis. These project managers have strong interpersonal project management skills. So, what are interpersonal skills? Why are they important? And, how can we improve these critical skills?
Interpersonal skills are relational and communication skills. They are soft skills, but that does not mean they are not important. Seth Godin argues that these should be called real skills -- these skills are critical to our success.
Imagine a project team with strong-willed individuals who battled one another over a buy vs. build decision. Sally, a long-time employee and senior developer, made a case for leveraging the tools and experience of the company to build a solution. John, an operational manager said, "We don't have time to develop a solution; our competition is already ahead of us. Let's buy and implement a commercial solution as soon as possible." How would you have handled the relational and communication aspects of this conflict?
Great project managers are great communicators. And we are often required to inform, persuade, inspire, and lead others. Let's look at how public speaking may be hurting your career and twelve ways to become a better speaker.
So, what is public speaking (also called oratory)? It is the process or act of performing a speech to a live audience.
When does this occur for project managers? Every time you lead a meeting. When you train others. Presentations to senior management. Board meetings.
There are also opportunities to advance your career outside of your day-to-day projects. I regularly speak at PMI Chapter meetings and project management symposiums (which earns me PMI Professional Development Units).
How do you feel about public speaking? According to the Washington Post, public speaking is one of our top fears (followed closely by bugs, snakes, and other animals).
Here's the good news. You can learn to be a better speaker. Yes, it takes practice, but you can improve your confidence and your skills. Consequently, you will boost your career opportunities. Here's how.
“Fully 85 percent of your success as a leader will be determined by your ability to communicate effectively with others.” -Brian Tracy
Where can you improve your public speaking skills? In what ways? Identify an area or two that you will work on. Look through this list of 12 ways to improve your public speaking, and work on a few at a time.
Think about the project managers you've worked with through the years. Which ones were unusually good? Which ones qualify as exceptional project managers?
I've had the privilege of working with hundreds of project managers in my career. Here are some of the traits and behaviors that made them stand out. How many of these traits do you possess?
"Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." -Winston Churchill
“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill
Projects are filled with pot-holes. Project managers and their team members make mistakes, create defective products, and stumble. Persistent project managers learn from their failures and lead with renewed enthusiasm.
“Opportunities don’t happen; you create them.” -Chris Grosser
Project managers are risk managers that identify, assess, and manage risks including threats and opportunities. Great project managers have an eye for seeing, exploiting, and enhancing opportunities.Continue reading
I recently had a project manager ask me which of the PMI certifications he should pursue. That depends—it depends on your goals as a project manager. Certainly, the Project Management Professional (PMP)® and the Project Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)® certifications supercharged my project management career.
I became a Project Management Professional (PMP) in 2001. And in 2012, I became in PMI-RMP. There were several reasons I choose the PMI-RMP certification.
"Eighty-three percent of organizations that are high performers in project management practice risk management frequently while just 49 percent of low performers do so." —Pulse of Profession report
So, how does one get started?
The Handbook provides a timeline of the PMI-RMP Certification Process. You will discover the exam policies and procedures. Furthermore, the application process and fees are explained.
Second, determine the resources that you plan to use. What books and courses will you use?
Third, develop a study plan. When will you study each week? Will you prepare along or with a group?
The certification exam has 170 multiple-choice questions. And you have 3.5 hours to complete it. To maintain your PMI-RMP, you must earn 30 professional development units in risk management topics every three years.
I've observed scores of project managers through the years. Some manage projects with no input from others. Others are not afraid of asking for project management advice. How about you?
Have you ever been lost without a GPS or map? Not sure where you are or how to get to where you want to be? I've been there. It's nerve-racking and embarrassing, particularly if you have passengers.
So, what's the wise thing to do? Ask for directions, right? Find the path that leads to your destination.
But some people fail to do this in projects. Are you a lone ranger? You know the guy or gal who needs no input from others.
One response I sometimes get when I encourage project managers to seek advice is, "Well, I'm the project manager. How I manage this project is no one else's business."
I've had some project managers tell me about their Project Management Professional (PMP) designation or about how they've started two Project Management Offices or how they've been managing projects more than 15 years.
I'm glad for their strong backgrounds and credentials, but it concerns me when I encounter the lone ranger mindset. No matter the accomplishments or how long one has led projects, we can all benefit from wise counsel.
Furthermore, when your project goes south, it impacts other people. Your team members. Management. Customers. Your company. Vendors. Partners.
And when things go awry, you will be criticized by these same stakeholders. Since people are going to talk about you, why not invite them to talk to you before you make your project decisions.
Here's what I know. When you realize that you made poor decisions, who will you likely go to for advice? Who are you gonna call?
Answer: It's not Ghostbusters. People often seek out the very people they chose to ignore earlier in their projects.
There's another class of project managers that are a step ahead of the lone rangers. When these people get stuck, they dial a friend.
Bill talks to his peer Linda. Bill and Linda both were hired the same year and both have two years of experience in project management. They are good friends and have relied on each other for advice.
Think about it. This is like one neighbor asking another neighbor for advice on investing when both have little knowledge and experience in the first place. It's not a bad thing. It's just not the best.
In contrast, other project managers have discovered the gold mine of seasoned and experienced project managers.
"Never take advice from people who aren't getting the results you want to experience." -Michael Hyatt
Why seek advice from experienced project managers? Well, these experienced project managers have been down the road many times. They have a perspective on things that is gained only through the school of hard knocks. These seasoned individuals can answer your toughest questions.
Politics. Difficult team members. Unengaged project sponsors. Unrealistic expectations from management. They've dealt with it all. Not once, but many times.
So, when's the best time to seek advice? Yes, you can ask for help when issues occur. Better yet, get their insights earlier when planning and considering significant project decisions.
From whom should we receive advice? Seek experienced individuals in your industry as well as those who are getting the results you want. Why talk to a financial advisor who is broke? Likewise, why seek advice from a project manager who rarely completes a project on budget and on time?
Another point, consider the possibility of talking to more than one person. In some cases, I've asked two or three seasoned individuals to meet together with me. The interaction provided insights that I would not have heard otherwise.
"Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed." Proverbs 15:22
Take some time today to think about your projects. What is one area where you would benefit from the input of others? Ask an experienced project manager if you may buy them a cup of coffee and get their advice concerning a challenge you've encountered. Many individuals will be flattered and happy to help.
But there's another side of this coin. No matter how long you've been managing projects, you have experience too (more than others who are just starting). Offer to share your knowledge and experience. Whenever you teach others, you reinforce what you've learned for yourself. Pay it forward!
Are you a better project manager today than you were a year ago? In what ways do you want to grow in the next year? Schedule management. Cost management. Requirements management. Leadership.
In his book Talent Is Overrated, Geoffrey Colvin says simply doing an activity is no guarantee that you’ll do it well, much less get better at it. In a significant number of cases, people get worse at their jobs over time.
Whether you are working on your first project or you have been managing projects for years, we must be intentional about our personal development and growth.
Excellence Requires More Than Repetition
"Simply doing an activity is no guarantee that you’ll do it well, much less get better at it. In a significant number of cases, people get worse at their jobs over time." —Geoff Colvin
Here are some 10 practical tips to boost your knowledge and skills. Pick one or two activities and schedule time in your calendar to take action.
In 1851, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, "Reading is equivalent to thinking with someone else's head instead of with one's own." Reading project management books and blogs is like having a conversation with the authors. You get inside their minds. You gain valuable insights. Click here to see my personal Project Management Bookshelf.
2. Get a Project Management Credential
One of the best ways to improve your project management knowledge is through acquiring a project management credential. The credential process forces you to invest a significant amount of time in learning and understanding project management principals, tools, and techniques. Check out the PMI Credentials.
3. Ask for Challenging Projects
If you run 5K races, how can you become a stronger runner? Run 10K races.
Ask for more challenging projects that allow you to expand your knowledge into other areas of your company. Look for projects that allow you to utilize newly gained project management knowledge.
4. Find a Mentor
If you take on challenging projects, ask a more experienced project manager for coaching. We can all benefit from guidance and coaching, no matter how long we have been managing projects.
When asking someone to mentor you, be clear about your expectations. How long do you want to be mentored? How often would you like to meet? What are you hoping to learn?
5. Mentor Someone
Once you have gained experience, mentor other project managers. Let a project manager or two know that you are available to help them. As you mentor others, you will not only help your mentees, you will gain much yourself.
6. Ask for Feedback
Consistently seek feedback. If you lead a meeting, ask someone after the meeting what you can do to improve future meetings. If you speak or make a presentation, ask a trusted peer to jot down observations, good and bad, to share with you afterward.
7. Keep a Project Journal
I have found keeping a project journal very helpful. Journaling allows me to capture my thoughts, vent when I need to, and provides perspective as I review the chronology of my projects. For more information, see my blog post on 7 Benefits of Keeping a Project Journal.
8. Sleep and Nap More
I know this item seems out of place, but getting adequate sleep is essential for great performance. The average American gets 6 1/2 hours of sleep per night. Several studies have demonstrated significant improvements in performance and in our ability to learn when we get adequate sleep.
You owe it to yourself - read Tony Schwartz’s post on Sleep Is More Important Than Food.
9. Do Things That Matter
Stop wasting your time on trivial things. Focus on the things that get results. Remember, the 80/20 rule. Of the things you do every day, only about 20% really matter.
10. Review Lessons Learned
Check with your PMO or experienced project managers to see if you can get access to lessons learned. Why make mistakes that others have already made? Discover what others have learned through the school of hard knocks.
Question: I am sure you have thought of other helpful tips. What would you add?
Perhaps you are like me. You have lots of thoughts darting around in your mind. If you are looking for a way to sort and organize your thoughts, let’s look at the benefits of keeping a project journal.
Project managers are busy people, often managing multiple projects. During the course of a day, you may encounter all kinds of things–schedule conflicts, people issues, poor leadership by your sponsors, too many meetings, and scope creep, to name a few. Furthermore, we are so busy that it’s hard to find time to make sense of it all.
Author, blogger and speaker Michael Hyatt says, “…journaling is a means to an end. It helps me think more deeply about my life, where it is going, and what it means.” This is not only true for our personal lives, but journaling helps with our professional lives.
Here are seven ways I benefit from my project journal:Continue reading
Every project has risks—events or conditions that, if they occur, have positive or negative effects on a project’s objectives. And project managers are risk managers, some better than others. If you want to improve your project success through better risk management, consider getting certified as a Risk Management Professional. Here are some things you should know about the PMI-RMP.
The PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP) is a designation offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). This credential is for project management professionals who wish to demonstrate specialized knowledge and skills in project risk management.Continue reading