Project Management

How To Establish Your Credibility as a Project Manager in a New Environment

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By Yasmina Khelifi, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA, PMP

Project management skills are transferable skills you can use in any domain or environment.

All of us have heard this, but I didn’t believe it until I realized the power of PM skills in two situations. The first one was in a software project I managed many years ago. More recently, I leveraged my project management practice in a new technical environment.

Based on my lessons learned, here are five main ingredients I’d like to share with you in terms of establishing your credibility in a new environment

1. Accept your limits
I don't have a developer background. When I was appointed, the team was skeptical. From the outset, I set the expectations: I said right away that I didn’t know much about software development. Talking openly about our limits is the cornerstone to forge trust among stakeholders.

2. Stay in your lane
The developers were experts. One of the sponsors tried to compete with them, asking tricky questions, challenging what they were saying. The developers interpreted it as a lack of trust—which it was, partly. He plummeted their engagement.

It's not about foregoing a general understanding of what experts are doing. It's about knowing where to put the bar. The time you will spend learning will translate to less time wasted down the line.

3. Connect and reflect
Take time to get to know the people you’ll work with—and remember what they told you. Taking a genuine interest in your team members will translate into stronger teamwork and better outcomes.

More importantly, think about creating spaces in your clogged calendar to self-reflect. What objectives would you like to achieve in the three coming months? It will help you to not go astray.

When you arrive in a new environment, you are also overwhelmed by names, faces, documents and information. I write down the information I get (including personal ones) to jog my memory when I need to.

4. Observe, ask and take notes
When I revamped the delivery process in the new technical environment, I interviewed experts to understand the current state. I listened, I misunderstood, I asked again —that's critical for understanding where the most important things lie.

In my former position, I trained newcomers. I was a reference on the team. In this new environment, I felt like a fresh graduate student with more ego. Thoughts of failure crawled in. It was not easy to accept. In hindsight, it was an incredible lesson in humility to push me to shift my mindset from “knowing it all” to learning.

5. Communicate
Before being project manager, I contributed to different projects. In one of them, I hardly saw the project manager—and I didn't understand how she managed it.

Drawing on this lesson learned, when I took over the project role on the software team, I explained how I worked, the way I communicated, what I knew (and didn’t know) and the frontiers of my role.

In both cases, I set up different communication threads:

  • A general email, like a newsletter every two weeks (a long email list with all stakeholders, including some top managers)
  • Dedicated project emails
  • Ad hoc conference calls (if needed)
  • Instant messaging groups

These also provided places where I could reward some team players for their contributions.

In the beginning, people didn't see the value of these communications; I was accused of sending too many emails. But in the long run, it has held. It fostered team spirit.

What are the ingredients of your recipe to thrive in a new environment? Share your comments below.

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: October 06, 2021 01:35 AM | Permalink

Comments (24)

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Thank you for the article.
An ingredient of my recipe to thrive in a new environment is to realize the need to learn and adjust.

I enjoyed reading this. Food for thought, thank you.

Good points. I could instantly connect to some of your points. Mt impressions as a project team member helped me formulate my working style as a PM.

Great thoughts! I think new environments help oneself grow in humility. We cannot be experts in everything but we can learn. Simply asking questions and acknowleding gaps makes great inroads. However, people need to know how you will help them and how your role in the project will positively impact their work. Like being a facilitator, provide resources or simply letting them to their work as experts.

Great points! Thanks for sharing.

Good points, thank you!

Dear Yasmina
Very interesting theme that brought to our reflection and debate

Thanks for sharing and your opinions.

Hi Rami thank you so much for your feeback. Yasmina

Hi Luis thank you for taking the time to read my blog post.

Hi Kwiyuh, thank you so much for your nice feedback.

Hi Lucy, I'm glad you've found it useful.

Hi Luis Alberto, thank you for your insights!

Hi Alvin, thank you for your feedback!

Hi Jeanine, thank you very much!

Hi Vamsi, thank you so much.

Hi Shivakumar, great thanks for your feedback!

The points are very practical and can help project managers who find themselves in new environment. Thank you very much .

Practical points mentioned here, thank you for sharing.

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