Bloggers Sound Off: Mentoring Matters

From the Voices on Project Management Blog
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In this Voices on Project Management roundtable, bloggers discuss their mentors. We asked: What is the best project management advice you received from your mentor? How do you continue to use it?

Hajar Hamid, PMP: One of my previous managers gave me valuable advice on how to respond to challenging emails: Wait for a day before responding. The reason behind this is to be objective in responding and to get to the core of the issue. Only with a clear head can we contribute to the solution.

Mário Henrique Trentim, PMI-RMP, PMP: The best advice I received from my mentor was: "There is no single project management theory. It takes knowledge and experience to build the maturity that will help you manage larger and more complex projects."

In the beginning of my career, I focused on managing "by the book." It felt safe because I was compliant to a standard. However, every project has special characteristics. Even A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)--Fifth Edition mentions tailoring. 

Today, I advise my own mentees to learn and master one methodology at a time, applying them to a specific project. With time, they get more experienced and fluent in many standards and methodologies.

Lynda Bourne, DPM, PMP: The mentee relationship has proven a very rich experience for me both as a mentor and as a mentee. 

As a mentee, I mainly worked with women who had succeeded in areas in which I was just starting out. The most important thing I learned from mentors was this: Observe how the men operate. They don't take failure personally, they are confident in their own abilities, and they know the value of networking. I learned how to do these three things better with support from my mentor, and my career flourished.

Generally my mentees are seeking a career change. Some know what they want to do next, some don't. In our conversations, we explore options for their next career moves. I don't give advice as such -- I just ask questions, challenge or talk about my own experiences. Then when mentees make their move to the new career, they are ready and understand any risks. Mentees have the solution in their own minds and usually just need someone "in their corner" to work it out.

Conrado Morlan, PMP, PgMP: While working hard to earn stripes as a junior project manager, the triple constraint ruled my mindset and blocked me from developing project plans. I was literally playing by the book and couldn't see the forest for the trees. 

My manager recommended I look at the big picture, be flexible and put things into context. "We do not live in a perfect world and you have to understand that," he said. He advised that I shouldn't let the uncertainty of resources stop me from seeing the bigger picture. The purpose of a project is to produce a result and along the way, my stakeholders and I would need to be flexible and adapt to the existing conditions.

Bernadine Douglas, PMP: The best project management advice I received was regarding building rapport. My mentor encouraged networking and holding meetings inside and outside of the office to build rapport with team members and stakeholders. 

As a mentor, I too put a lot of emphasis on this. I take advantage of situations to talk with team members so they feel comfortable talking with me.

What's the best advice you received from a mentor? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.
Posted by Voices Team on: January 16, 2014 10:35 AM | Permalink


Ricardo I. Guido-Lavalle, PMP, PgMP
My friend and colleague Gerardo Sanchis was Program Director when I was Program Manager. The team was some 100 people in size, more than 100 more stakeholders. Very often people came with gossip, and I told Gerardo "That guy tld me that...¨. Gerardo stopped me on the stop, and told me ¨we don´t accept gossip. We cannot deal with a team this size based on that¨. Fact is, people that see you accepting to do gossip will never trust you their deep toughts. My father made roads. We travelled loooooong roads almost without curves in Patagonia, hours driving without reference landscape. In macadam roads, other trucks often throwed a stone on the glass that broke it. Until we added a meshed shield to the glass, it would always break. When a car approached, he would press the glass with a hand. That way, when the stone hit, its vibrations would be limited, and the cristal would have localized damage, not exploding. He also taught to pay attention to the roadsides, looking for wandering cows or horses. Most serious risks weren´t on the road at travel plan time, actually. Ricardo Rio de Janeiro

Mahmoud Ghonim
Delegation is the important advise that i noticed when working in a project, It gives opportunity to innovation and achievement.

Geoff Warnock
A gruff Project Manager took me aside one day and while pointing his finger at me said "Don't go into that project meeting with a big smile and shaking hands with everyone like they're all your friends." He went on to explain that a project is nothing other than 'Change'. "People in our business despise change - it makes more work for them". His viewpoint was that if you're smiling, you don't know what's going on. As Project Manager, that's the death knell regarding stakeholder support. He went on to tell me that only a few stakeholders are in favor of a project - those that will benefit from it. The others will have to go along with it for whatever reason and it will usually cost them time and resources. He told me the best thing I can do is to go meet with them individually and figure out where they stood on the project, determine their sore points and do what I could to alleviate their project pain. Empathy with the situation will get you farther than a smile and a handshake. Since then, I've changed industries but I am very aware of stakeholders and what 'change' means to them and how they will most likely have to dedicate resources they wanted working on something else. Stakeholder management and subsequent communication regarding what they need to hear, versus what they want to hear is imperative to success. Stakeholders are always in my Risk Management plan - which is developed before my Stakeholder Management plan - which I usually keep to myself.

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