Project Management

Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Cameron McGaughy
Lynda Bourne
Kevin Korterud
Peter Tarhanidis
Conrado Morlan
Jen Skrabak
Mario Trentim
Christian Bisson
Yasmina Khelifi
Sree Rao
Soma Bhattacharya
Emily Luijbregts
David Wakeman
Ramiro Rodrigues
Wanda Curlee
Lenka Pincot
cyndee miller
Jorge Martin Valdes Garciatorres
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Rex Holmlin
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Jim De Piante
Siti Hajar Abdul Hamid
Bernadine Douglas
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Alfonso Bucero Torres
Marian Haus
Shobhna Raghupathy
Peter Taylor
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Jess Tayel
Lung-Hung Chou
Rebecca Braglio
Roberto Toledo
Geoff Mattie

Recent Posts

How Can We Keep Project Conflict in Check?

A Roadmap for Continuous Learning

The Power of Agile Team Cohesion

What Qualities Do the Best Project Managers Have?

The Power of Pauses and Silence

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Viewing Posts by Yasmina Khelifi

A Roadmap for Continuous Learning

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

The ability to maintain a learning mindset is a top hiring quality that can potentially be more important than experience. Despite that, no one explicitly explained to me how to do it. I’m curious and ask many questions, which has helped me gain new insights.

However, given the pace of change in the world, this is not enough. Based on my experiences, I’d like to share a three-step roadmap to make the motto “learn continuously” a reality.

1. List your obstacles

First of all, you have to acknowledge it is not so easy. You are bombarded with information from social media, with successes from former colleagues or university friends. We may be tempted to follow all the paths and then abruptly stop in the middle. You may also have work-mandatory training.

At the same time, you want to prepare yourself for the next role and take other training courses. How can you squeeze in learning now and tomorrow in between all your work and your personal life?

This is where you need to reframe your mindset.

2. Change your mindset

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Stop repeating, “I have to do A and B,” “ I don’t learn so much” or “ I’m lazy.”

Learning doesn’t only take place in formal classes—something I’ve only recently understood. Being aware of this will help you be more satisfied with the learning you pick up along the way.

Also accept that it’s okay to be less ambitious; it is better to learn a little daily rather than not at all.

Force yourself to learn things in completely different fields. For example, talk with a video expert if you work in compliance, or have lunch with a marketing colleague if you work in technical fields.

Last but not least, be open to changes along the way. You might need to learn a new tool or technology you were unaware of at work. Or you might become overwhelmed by work or personal issues that stop your plan—and that’s okay. If you accept these changes, you will not feel frustrated.

3. Sharpen your approach

Define clear objectives for what you want to learn (hard skills or power skills), and for when (short term, mid term, or long term). It will help you prioritize them.

Then you have to map how you would like to learn these skills—taking a training course, preparing for a certification, etc.

Engaging in communities within your industry to keep abreast of the latest trends and having conversations with experts is also important. You can also watch a webinar, listen to a podcast, or read a blog or a book.

The key is to not insist on doing all the different things at the same time.

Learning continuously is a lifelong project to develop yourself professionally and—more importantly—as a human being.

How do you learn continuously? Share your feedback below.

 

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: April 23, 2024 01:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

The Power of Pauses and Silence

The business world is busy. It is busy with words: emails, messengers, phones and videos. It is busy where we work: open spaces, flex desks, public transportation and crowded cities. It is busy in matrix organizations: transversal meetings and redundant communications.

How can we translate this noise into building relationships with people?

Why we fear silence
Sometimes, we make an effort to speak uninterrupted so we don’t leave space for uncomfortable silence or questions, or because we are stressed. It is situational.

In other cases, this is part of our image of being a leader. You may have been influenced by former leaders you saw, or colleagues who you admired because of their energetic way of talking.

You may have deduced that this is a good way to be a leader and have tremendous executive presence—that taking up “speaking space” signifies power, of someone who has knowledge and wants to share and mentor.

There are also cultures (national, corporate, educational) where you are pushed to speak up, give your point of view, or express yourself. It is valued. It is a sign of engagement and interest. When people are silent in these cultures, they may be judged as less engaged and even less competent.

Some languages don't bear pauses and silence. Others need it. I became aware of that in an exciting way. I work with Spanish colleagues remotely, and we usually speak English. I am looking for the point when some Spanish colleagues talk in English; I feel like the sentences have no end (like in French). When we speak in Spanish, I don’t have this feeling at all.

Pauses and silence make you a better leader
You can improve your communication when you take care of pauses and silence—if you use them in the proper context.

In some languages (like Japanese), making small sounds when people talk is essential to confirm you are following the conversation. By mistake, I began to do the same in French and said "yes" regularly. The person thought I wanted to talk and, at a certain point, told me, “Can I speak, please?" These small sounds in French were interpreted as interruptions.

I have also worked with British colleagues a lot in the past by phone. When I finished a sentence, I wondered what happened: My colleagues waited a bit before talking. I thought there was a network issue. But when I paid more attention, I noticed how important it was to leave some seconds between the end of my sentence and the beginning of their sentences. It was a way to ensure I finished speaking, and not to interrupt or overlap.

This small break is also practical when you don't use video and don't see if the person wants to add something. It was a practice I didn’t have. I tended (and still tend) to speak right away after the end of a sentence. Now, I count five seconds before talking.

When you immediately jump to the next sentence, you look more aggressive and less respectful. But when you begin to pause and stop speaking, you leave more space for others—and you listen more to silence.

Learn to listen to pauses and silence in your teams
Silence can have different usages:

  • It helps you and your teams digest information and think about what was said.
  • It helps you and your teams prepare an answer, or answer in a quiet way, to hurtful comments or questions.
  • It helps you and your teams to breathe and step back.

Silence can also have different meanings:

  • It is a cultural way of communicating.
  • It can express some disagreements people don’t dare say.
  • It perhaps signifies a lack of interest in the topics.
  • It may show a lack of understanding and/or a fear of asking questions.
  • People do not have time, or do not prioritize your projects.

When you work remotely, you may send emails and don’t get any answers—despite the good relationships you have built. There might be simple reasons: people have personal issues; there are other problems in the organization (or the country); people have other priorities. That’s why it’s crucial to have different sources of knowledge—people who know the country.

How can you distinguish between these different meanings? You need to observe, listen properly, and learn to decipher pauses and silences. They are part of the rhythm of communication. Adapting to different rhythms can forge better relationships with your team members and create a more collaborative environment.

What are your experiences with pauses and silence while communicating in your teams

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: March 05, 2024 04:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Do You Ask Too Many Questions to Your Team as a Project Manager?

 

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

Questions can help move your project forward and solve issues. Sometimes, questions allow you to discover common ground or interest that will strengthen work relationships. But we need to be mindful with them.

I’ve recently thought about some of my experiences as a project manager. I’ve contributed to different teams, and I’ve led other teams. In both instances, I have the same doubt: Do I ask too many questions of them? I want to share some things I’ve learned about this over the years. If you’ve ever faced the same concern, keep these tips in mind.

1. Explain what motivates you to ask questions. You need to understand what motivates you to ask questions. Is it out of curiosity? Is it a way to build rapport with your teams? Is it because you anticipate questions other stakeholders will ask you? Is it part of your routine to check in with the team? Is it to solve a problem?

  • If you are intellectually curious about their work, clearly state that. Then you can decide if you need training that can bring you more answers.
  • If you want to build rapport, some team members expect you to ask questions not only about work, but also about family and important personal events (birthdays, weddings, etc.). For some colleagues, it is essential to know people personally to work with them—but others want to refrain from talking about these things.
  • If it is your routine to check in, discuss that with the team.
  • If you want to solve a problem, ask questions until you get to the root of the issue.
  • Questioning is also a way to help people. Perhaps a colleague cannot verbalize issues that he or she faced, and by asking questions, you may understand that they need help.

Each of these reasons is valid, but you need to explain it to the team.

2. Keep the answers. In the rush, you may ask a question and get the needed answer—and then not document it. Then, one week later, you ask the same question. That can be interpreted as a lack of interest. If you have the answers, document them.

In uncertain environments, the same question can result in a different answer because some elements have changed. So you can say something like this: “I remember you told me that feature was going to be delivered Week X. Is that still the case?” You will show that you listened properly to the answer. If you don’t remember it, be honest about that.

And even if you explain your reasons for asking questions to your team members, don’t expect everyone to react similarly.

3. Observe behaviors and tailor your reaction. There are many reasons you might face difficulty with a line of questioning:

  • Some people will be reluctant to answer some questions if they sense you want to micromanage them or control their actions.
  • They may think it is a waste of time because the questions are outside your remit.
  • Others may think you are intrusive and wonder why you need to know these answers.
  • Some will interpret it as a lack of trust. It will also depend on whether you ask only some people rather than others.

On the other spectrum, some team members will view it as a lack of interest if you don’t ask them questions about their work. Don’t neglect the intercultural aspect, and the power dynamic you are in.

Responses will also depend on the number of questions you ask. Do you ask open or closed-ended questions? If each meeting comes across like a police interrogation, it will be unpleasant for team members.

And if you ask questions, do you allow people to ask them in return? You should allow some time for this, as they may be curious about what you’re doing. I once contributed to a project where I had many questions. I would have loved to ask the project manager, but I didn’t dare. To help make them feel more at ease, you can end your questions with an invitation: “Do you have any questions you’d like to ask me?”

And be careful that no question you ask comes across as hurtful. Even if a question is asked with good intent, it can still come across the wrong way (“That was with good intent” isn’t an excuse). Be careful with your words and tone.

What kind of experiences have you had with questions (on both sides)?

 

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: November 15, 2023 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

3 Tips to Take the Next Step in Your Project Leader Career

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

Since the start of the pandemic, changes in our ways of working, our ways of interacting, and with new technologies have accelerated. It's hard to keep up, and sometimes you plan to upskill—but you can’t find the time. Keep these three things in mind as you navigate our new normal:

1. Talk with people
Since 2020, I've been more engaged in communities: a marketing community, a project management community, and a coaching community. Each has its own rules of engagement. Some encourage one-to-one video calls—and that's the best way to push yourself to talk with people who may be of different academic backgrounds, work experiences and industries from yourself. Communities or professional associations (like PMI and its local chapters) can help you expand your network.

In addition, you can expand your network easily by reaching out and connecting with people after you take part in webinars or face-to-face events, or when you listen to a podcast you liked.

I also like to schedule informational interviews with people. The aim is to gather information about an industry, a role, and how people have gotten there. The aim is not to ask for a job or to send your CV. The interviewee must be open and share as much as they can. If you are the interviewee, don't expect the interviewer to ask you questions about what they don't know. Describe what you do, the diplomas or certifications in the field, and remove the local jargon.

You may think "people are too busy" to do this, but you'd be surprised by the number of helpful responses you get. After each informational interview, write down what you learned, and where you need to learn more; along with what you did and didn’t like about what you heard.

2. Be kind to yourself
It’s easy to blame yourself with negative thoughts like "I'm too slow" or "I don't know what I want." But for some people, it takes time to know what they do and don’t like, along with their strengths and how they want to have an impact. There are also personal and family constraints to consider.

So be kind to yourself and find a supportive network of friends so you can formulate the different steps and what you learned in the process.

I remember a colleague I talked with many years ago who wanted to change jobs. I met him a few months ago, and he told me with a shameful face, "After all of that, I didn't change." And that is okay. If the end result is no change, there is no shame because at least you took the time to explore new paths. You learned about yourself during the process, and you met new people.

Don’t compare yourself with others. That’s easier said than done, but remember that we all have different paths.

3. Go to a professional for help
As a project manager, you can work in different roles in the same industry or even transition to a new industry. Project management has transferable skills, but changing your industry may not be so easy. You may need to pave the path with certifications, diplomas, or online courses. Some options are risky for valid reasons. For example, I will not take the risk of managing a nuclear project (and would an employer trust me to do so when I’ve had no experience in that field?).

If you’re becoming too anxious or overwhelmed, or if you feel lost, seek professional help to get guidance to make sense of what you feel and want.

What other things do you recommend to help define your next career step as a project leader?

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: September 21, 2023 09:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

5 Tips to Onboard New Team Members

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

A few years ago, I replaced a contractor who was an expert in his field. We met once a week, and he answered my questions. But the domain was new to me. He was an expert, and I was not—so I thought it was normal that I didn't understand it.

He didn't write documents for me. So when he left, I spent difficult months catching up on things. Fortunately, I worked with a helpful technical expert. Then I wrote the necessary documents. We also developed a short training course. Since then, I have had to onboard colleagues, and I could use this documentation.

I belong to many teams at work (and in the volunteering setting), and I’d like to share some thoughts on how this kind of transition can be better handled. Let's call Moa, your new team member.

1. Think of the needs of the newbie. When you onboard someone new, you first need to understand what they need. This is not about you; this is about Moa. You need to take into consideration some questions:

a. Big picture vs. task only: Some people need to have the big picture to understand. Others need to understand only their sandbox.

b. Learning methods: How does Moa learn and memorize?

  • Does he need to get documentation?
  • Does he need to observe people at work?
  • Does he need to talk with you regularly, in addition to documentation?

c. Learning rhythm: What is Moa’s rhythm to learn? I am a bit impatient and need to know what is expected from me from the outset. If I don’t know it, I become anxious. Sometimes I get feedback like “Relax! You have time.” It doesn’t reassure me. On the contrary, it makes me nervous and a bit upset because by these words, I feel like people are not listening to my needs.

d. Face-to-face meetings: If Moa is a remote team member, you’ll have to talk with his manager to plan a face-to-face meeting quickly after he joins. Perhaps a longer visit will be advantageous (and a great opportunity to gather the whole team together).

2. Define the best approach. Once you have had these first conversations, you can tailor an onboarding plan. Onboarding doesn’t stop the first week—it is a journey that can take several months and can take different forms:

  • You can have weekly meetings
  • You can invite Moa to your conference calls even if it isn’t directly linked to Moa’s role (and you can catch up afterward)
  • You can send documents/information
  • You can add Moa in the email loops and explain things

3. Demystify languages. You will also be Moa’s “translator.” The language of your team includes:

  • Acronyms and vocabulary of the domain and organization
  • Business language (for example, French business language is a mix between English and French)

These are the kinds of things you cannot get from training. Perhaps you have a glossary, or you can create one.

4. Uncover the unspoken rituals. When it comes to rituals, people often think of coffee breaks or after-work social gatherings. But rituals also encompass practical things about ways of working.

Perhaps Moa is more interested in those items than the coffee breaks. You can anticipate answering the following questions:

  • What types of meetings do we have on the team?
  • During the meetings, can questions be asked?
  • Are the meetings recorded if I can’t attend?
  • Are there minutes?
  • How do we communicate?
  • How are new ideas proposed?

5. Start early…and include everyone. With the overload at work and deadlines to catch up, your team member sometimes isn't in a hurry to train Moa. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to help him. But onboarding someone takes more time than expected.

We all manage things without writing them down. Or a process is written, but after a while, we adapt it without updating the written process. Because of that, a 30-minute conversation can last longer than expected. Moa may ask many questions, like me.

Welcoming a new member is not only the responsibility of the manager. It is even more important if Moa already works in the company. The onboarding process can start before with a handover period. Moa can begin to meet his colleagues and exchange with them.

Onboarding new members is a key process in the life of a team. It is an opportunity to strengthen ties, and also a learning opportunity for everyone.

What other things do you plan to onboard new team members?

 

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: July 25, 2023 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)
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