By Cyndee Miller
Greta Thunberg isn’t messing around. Joining forces with three other young climate change activists, she called on political leaders last week to stop talking and actually do something: “Our current system is not ‘broken’—the system is doing exactly what it’s supposed and designed to be doing. It can no longer be ‘fixed.’ We need a new system.”
For many people, taking on such massive issues can be overwhelming. And even the mighty Thunberg admits to Reuters she was “very worried” when she first began. “But when I started doing something, then there came hope from that. Because hope comes from action.”
Hope comes from projects.
Thunberg is part of a new generation of leaders who see that potential—and are using it to transform and define the future. Unflinching in the face of change. Naturally collaborative. Digitally fluent. Deeply committed to social good. Constantly learning.
This is the PMI Future 50. And they’re coming in with their own POV on building a better workplace—and a better world. There’s architecture activist Pascale Sablan, determined to right the social injustices embedded in design. Alagesan Hanippuya, PMP, is forging a fintech future in Southeast Asia. Tiago Chaves Oliveira, PMP, is pushing for more creativity and innovation in Brazil’s government. Gregory Daniels, PMP, is helping Zoom manage a 30-fold traffic surge amid the COVID-19 crisis. And there’s Thunberg, too.
They’re all putting their own stamp on the future of work and how projects get done. Deloitte reports nearly half of millennials and Gen Zers prioritize making a positive impact on society, for instance. And 32 percent of Gen Zers say they’re motivated to work harder and stay longer at a company if they have a supportive manager, per The Workforce Institute. It’s common enough advice for leaders, but this new cohort is determined to put it into action. “We need to take care of people. Just asking for results will not work. We also need to try to understand their needs and their perspectives and to encourage each person to ask critical questions,” says Gabriel Costa Caldas, director of operations at GPjr, Brasília, Brazil.
This also means a shift in the most in-demand skills. “I would expect big-picture thinking, creativity and empathy to play an even bigger role in successful project management,” says Miishe Addy, CEO of Jetstream Africa, Tema, Ghana.
Read more about the youthquake and meet all the Future 50 leaders in a special issue of PM Network® and in a series of videos and digital exclusives. (Pro tip: This is a multimedia affair to be enjoyed. Flipping through the pages of the magazine is a grand experience where you can take in everything and everyone at once, along with loads of pretty pictures. Check out the digital profiles and you’ll find most have Q&As at the end with some content that doesn’t appear in the magazine. And the videos let you see and hear these leaders in action.)
How is the next generation of leaders transforming your organizations and industries? And who gives you the most hope for the future? Fill me in in the comments.
By Emily Luijbregts
In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell explains that you need 10,000 hours to master any skill. That equates to several years of work and development.
But even dedicating smaller amounts of time can lead to progress. If I told you that you could become a better project manager within 100 days, would you believe me?
I’ve been spending a lot of time during the pandemic thinking about professional development and how we can become better project management professionals in every aspect of our careers.
When I started on this journey myself, I decided to take a look at my leadership skills and determine how I could better manage my remote and virtual teams. I chose this path based on the projects that I managed this year and where I felt that I could add the most value to my projects, organization and, more importantly, my team.
Your challenge—if you choose to accept it—is to sharpen your skill set as a project leader over the course of 100 days.
In the next 100 days, I want you to consider taking the steps below and tracking where this journey can take you:
1. Determine three areas that need your attention.
Where are your weaknesses? Where do you most need help?
This can be a real challenge for some people to comprehend, as knowing your weaknesses is a sign of a deeper understanding of yourself as an individual. I have truly come to understand my weaknesses, not only in my professional life but through my private challenges, which enabled me to look at myself from a different perspective and analyze my achievements and shortcomings.
When I’m mentoring an individual, we’ll spend quite a bit of time working on this topic—normally, it’ll be something that they didn’t think of initially. If you struggle with this task, I suggest talking to someone whom you trust and working on this together.
I recommend choosing three areas of focus, but if you have two or four areas, that’s absolutely fine. This is your path and your journey.
2. Make a plan for what’s realistic to achieve in this time period.
Let’s be honest, no one can devote 24 hours a day to perfecting a skill or personal development: It’s just not possible. Life gets in the way. And that’s absolutely fine.
Determine what’s feasible to achieve in the next 100 days and set yourself some realistic SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based). Also, analyze how you’re going to get there. What tools do you need to be able to develop? Is there a course of action you need to follow? What about guidance? This is the time to make sure that you’ve got the resources that you need to succeed.
You can plot this plan however you feel is most appropriate. You can choose a Kanban Board, Gantt chart or even a list of to-dos. Keep it simple and tailor your methods to your needs. When I did this for myself, I created a sheet in my workbook that looked similar to the below:
3. Seek out support.
Make your manager and colleagues aware of what you’re doing, and maybe they’ll join you. Make this a positive turn towards professional development and collaboration. I bet there are skills that you have that your colleagues need and vice versa. Challenge each other to become better professionals and raise the bar within your teams.
My support network came in the form of my peers. I asked several respected project managers whom I trust if they could recommend courses or webinars that might be suitable or give me advice based on their experience.
4. Complete the action plan.
Now, we get to the difficult part: You need to actually do the work and execute the plan that you’ve made. Watch some webinars, attend training courses and find a mentor. Along the way, I’d like to suggest that you adopt the agile principle of “inspect and adapt.” Analyze what you’re doing: Is it working? Do you need to change paths?
At the end of the 100 days, you will emerge a stronger, more confident project manager.
What 100-day challenge are you willing to take on to become a better project leader?
By Conrado Morlan
“A man may have wisdom and discernment, but that is not like embracing a favorable opportunity. A man may have instruments of husbandry, but that is not like waiting for the farming seasons.” — Mengzi
I do not know a project management professional who has not faced challenging situations during their career. The range of challenges can include unforeseen risks that quickly became issues, such as geopolitical events, acts of God or, most recently, a pandemic.
Those kinds of stressful situations help to forge the resilience skills and traits characteristic of the modern project management professional. Resilience is not about toughness; it is about equanimity. It’s about how you manage your temperament in challenging situations and move forward.
During these times, stakeholders expect you, the project management professional, to act and act fast. There is a desire for instant gratification and often a misinterpretation of the concept of “being agile” by both stakeholders and project management professionals.
I remember one time in which I was leading the negotiation process with a prospect in South America. On that Friday morning, I recommended that my manager hold off on sharing the final proposal until I met with the prospect in person on Monday. On Saturday morning, I received a text from my manager telling me that he was about to leave for South America for the Monday meeting, which was not in the original plan. Due to personal commitments, I was flying in on Sunday night. As soon as I landed, I already had two missed calls from the customer and a couple of texts asking for an explanation about the drastic changes in the proposal and why the purchasing department was copied in the email.
My approach, based on Fabian strategy—a military strategy in which pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition and indirection—was not successful. Much like when Fabius fought Hannibal, a third party involved took action without my knowledge.
When we met with the customer, I tried to regain control of the situation, but it was too late. Now the purchasing director was at the negotiation table, something that was not part of the original negotiation strategy. After several hours of renegotiation, the contract was signed, but the two parties left money on the table. The customer saw a reduction in their IT budget, as the planned spend was reduced by 15 percent.
History Repeats Itself
Similar to what happened to Fabius during the Second Punic War, my manager was hailed as the key negotiator who closed the deal, and my perceived lack of action was recorded in my annual performance review.
The desire for instant gratification was satiated, but it made the company lose sight of the future. When the contract was about to end, the customer called to notify us that they would not renew the contract for the second phase of the project.
My strategy not to share the proposal ahead of time was focused on the long term, and on building a strong relationship with the customer—which would later translate into more business for the company. After the contract ended, my manager and his boss realized the reason for my “lack” of action and changed their views.
This event was one of the best learning experiences in my professional career. It gave me the knowledge of how to bounce back and the strength to learn the lessons I needed in order to move to the next stage in my career.
Cultural awareness cannot and should not be ignored. Contract negotiations have strong ties to culture, and local and national business etiquette should be followed to be successful.
Recognition for your efforts may not happen at first. It may take some time, but it will help confirm that your decisions were for the best.
It was one of the many setbacks in my career, but I am grateful for the experience.
As a project management professional, what events or situations have forged your resilience?
A program manager must work with several cross-functional teams, facilitate many meetings, and drive and motivate team members to achieve business outcomes.
While this sounds like a great fit for extroverts, introverts can also shine in this role by playing to their strengths. Introverts tend to be good thinkers, great listeners, observant and detail oriented. They are also generally skilled at forming meaningful connections and adept in small groups.
If you consider yourself to be an introverted program manager, here are some strategies you can employ to tap into your strengths as you execute your responsibilities.
1. Meetings: Program managers facilitate a lot of meetings, sometimes with a large group of participants, which can be daunting for introverts. These tips can help:
2. Self-promotion: Advocating for yourself can be one of the hardest things for introverts. Here are some ways to do it gracefully:
3. Networking: As program managers, we have to exert influence without authority. We need to work with different types of personalities and get things done. Networking is key. Here’s how to build and sustain meaningful connections as an introvert:
4. Communication: Introverts tend to speak up less often than others. If you are generally quiet in meetings or other situations, it tends to create a misconception that you are not assertive. Here’s how to communicate better as an introvert:
5. Motivating teams: Motivating program teams is another key responsibility of a program manager. Here’s how to handle it as an introvert:
Lastly, if you are an introverted program manager, be authentic to your true self and stretch yourself in ways that are reasonable. Trying to be something you are not will only lead to burnout in the long run.
What tips have you found most helpful for yourself or for introverts on your team?
By Emily Luijbregts
We are facing uncertain times. The “External Shock” that COVID-19 has brought to economies around the world was something that few of us could’ve predicted—deserted highways, closed schools and businesses, and an instantaneous demand to work remotely. Within the first quarter of 2020, workforces were furloughed and organizations struggled to adapt to the new world.
As project managers, we have not remained immune to this. Our projects have been cancelled, postponed or delayed. We have had severe issues with supply chains, team management and connectivity. And the uncertainty which faces us, not only for the next quarter but for the remainder of the year, has made us look tentatively towards future prospects and the ability of our organizations to survive.
If you are finding yourself furloughed or in a precarious position within your organization, you may already be asking yourself: What can I do to become more adaptable to change? How can I make myself indispensable within my team and organization? And more realistically: What can I do to make sure that I can land another job as quickly as possible?
Here are a few career tips to set yourself up for the future:
First things first: When was the last time you updated all of your professional profiles? I’m not just talking about LinkedIn, but also PMI and ProjectManagement.com, PMTribe and others. Are you showing off all your skills, and are your job descriptions and goals concise?
It can also be helpful to analyze if your skillset is still relevant to the job that you’re looking for. This can be especially enlightening if you are working in a remote environment and can now promote your ability to manage virtual teams.
I try to update my own profile every quarter or every six months, depending on the amount of change that has happened in the previous period.
Like many of you, I’ve been forced to spend a considerable amount of time indoors in the last few weeks, and I’ve been trying to figure out the best use of my time without binge-watching another series on Netflix. One thing that I often try to reflect on are my strengths and weaknesses. What do I need to improve, and where do I excel? Then, I try to look at what I can do to turn my weaknesses into strengths in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.
If you’ve been furloughed, your company may have provided you with a learning program to boost your skills during this period. But if, like many project managers, you’ve been let go without support, there are a few free options that can support your learning journey.
For example, PMI offers free courses to anyone who is interested in project management. This is a great way to learn more about project management and refresh your existing skillset:
Have you already joined your local PMI chapter? Have you tried networking on ProjectManagement.com? I am a strong advocate for online networking, and I’ve been trying to connect with other project managers on LinkedIn and ProjectManagement.com to support them during this time with coaching or access to job prospects.
Networking is not just about searching for your next job. It’s about utilizing and building relationships with your peers that can stand the test of time. During the first month of virtual working, I scheduled and held virtual coffees with peers and team members, and also planned regular catch-ups with colleagues to make sure that we could stay virtually connected and supported during this uncertain time.
Recruiters are also feeling the pinch of the economic downturn. I have several recruiters in my network who are very nervous about the remainder of the year and what it will mean for companies and their ability to provide suitable candidates. If you do not have a few trusted recruiters in your network, consider sending an updated CV or résumé to professional recruiters who might be able to help if a viable opportunity presents itself.
We all know that life will be dramatically different for many of us once this pandemic is over. Not only with respect to our careers, but within our personal lives. I hope that whatever happens in the coming year, we all come out of this crisis with our health and good humor intact. The project management community is known for its close-knit and supportive atmosphere, and I hope that in a “Life after Corona,” it will continue to be so.
Share in the comments below: What career tips would you give other project managers during this time?