Project Management

5 Symptoms—and 5 Solutions—For Excessive Self-Confidence as a PM

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

A few months ago, I missed an important requirement in a project. Much was at stake if it wasn’t fixed on time. Fortunately, the provider could implement it on time, but it was very tight.

How did this happen? I had a complete sense of control of the project because I delivered similar ones in the past. But I was excessively self-confident and missed some steps in the process. This project also uncovered some tacit knowledge I didn’t document.

Turns out we not only have to fight imposter syndrome, but also “overconfidence syndrome.” It is a problem that can affect any leader regardless of age, gender, experience or location. 

5 main symptoms

There were some warning signs a few weeks before that I didn’t take into account. Here are some symptoms of overconfidence that can alert you:

  1. You are reluctant to introduce changes. Your excuse: “It has always worked like this. Why do I need to change?”
  2. You don’t request feedback. Your excuse: “If people don’t say anything, it means they are satisfied.”’
  3. You shelve ideas quickly, indicating no deadline. Your excuse: “We’ll talk about them later.”
  4. You begin to be more task oriented than relationship oriented. “I’m overloaded. I don’t have time to talk, and we have to move forward.”
  5. You don’t acknowledge efforts made, but instead focus on what is missing. Your excuse: “I’m a perfectionist.”  

Risks of inaction

Taking no action may have harmful effects on your projects. You can make new mistakes that will delay the projects. Some members of the team will feel demotivated by the behavior you display. Some will feel paralyzed by your overconfidence and make mistakes.

Overconfidence for me translated into a kind of scornful tone that I wasn’t aware of until some colleagues raised it to me. Since then, I’ve used some simple “medicines” that worked for me…

5 healing medicines

Before hitting a wall, there are some healing recipes to set up:

  1. Help a team member: It will give you a different perspective of the issues and constraints faced by the team.
  2. Mentor a young project manager: For me, it works because I remember how little guidance I got—and I’m back with my feet on the ground.
  3. Volunteer for a non-profit: For instance, you can spend a weekend helping an association. It is a way to meet diverse people and hear different stories of success—and failure. It reminds you how vulnerable we can be and how fragile life is.
  4. Write regularly in a journal: Block some time in your calendar and reflect on what happened during the week. What behaviors are you not proud of? What kind of role model were you for the team in that particular situation?
  5. Build a squad of mentors: Ask them to alert you if they notice any symptoms of overconfidence.

All of these will help you feel like you’re back in the trenches with a learning mindset! It will develop humility, tolerance and empathy.

What other healing medicines do you have to help you keep your feet on the ground despite your success as a project manager? Share your thoughts below!

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: April 01, 2022 11:51 AM | Permalink

Comments (18)

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Thank you for sharing the interesting article.

Dear Yasmina
The topic that you brought to our reflection and debate was very interesting.

Thanks for sharing and for your opinions.

Be aware of the "signals" emitted by the team members and through the indicators on how the project is being implemented (project performance) and, of course, ask questions

Hi Luis, thank you as always for your relevant comments. Take care, Yasmina

Important to reflect, no matter how painful it might be. Better to learn from the experience and work to ensure that issue does not happen again.

Hi Orla thank you so much for your feedback. best regards, Yasmina

Thanks for sharing this perspective!

Hi Khaled, thank you for your feedback!

Hi Justin, thank you for your feedback!

Dear Yasmina,

Thank you for sharing an Important and much needed topic.
Lack of communication is the starting point and that will keep increase the gap between the team members & PM.
PM should focus to correct immediately if there is any mis-communication/understanding.

Good insight. Keep challenging yourself and others (too), for best practices (however much we see of a regressive environment)

Hi VIJAYASEKARAN thank you and agreed Take care Yasmina

Hi Avnindra thank you for your kind feedback

Hi Ghassan thank you for your feedback.

Hello Yasmina, very insightful. Thank you for sharing. I agree with you about being more task-oriented instead of being relationship-oriented. We all know how much communication is important in Project Management and project success. Avoiding people, being shy are often one of the aspects of project managers who are task-oriented. Something to change absolutly!

Well written Yasmina, I can related to number 1 - being reluctant to introduce change. The PM who has handled a similar project in the past is tempted to run the new one exactly how the previous one went :) it is a learning journey! Thanks for sharing.

Hi Joyce thank you so much for your feedback!

Dear Yasmina, looks like I will be more active with Toastmasters because of your article as it covers 1-5 just by participating actively. Thanks for inspiring me. The journal will be Blogged so others can learn from it.

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