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
Marat Oyvetsky

Past Contributors:

Rex Holmlin
Vivek Prakash
Dan Goldfischer
Linda Agyapong
Jim De Piante
Siti Hajar Abdul Hamid
Bernadine Douglas
Michael Hatfield
Deanna Landers
Kelley Hunsberger
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina
Alfonso Bucero Torres
Marian Haus
Shobhna Raghupathy
Peter Taylor
Joanna Newman
Saira Karim
Jess Tayel
Lung-Hung Chou
Rebecca Braglio
Roberto Toledo
Geoff Mattie

Recent Posts

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Do You Foster Imposter Syndrome in Your Team?

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Viewing Posts by Yasmina Khelifi

Do You Foster Imposter Syndrome in Your Team?

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

I recently touched upon fighting imposter syndrome, which we can all suffer from as project managers. But as a leader, and even as a colleague, we can also unintentionally foster impostor syndrome on our teams. Let’s review three ways I’ve observed (and unfortunately practiced) this over my career—and what we can do about it.

1. Credentials and work experience don’t define human beings

Many years ago, I worked with a project manager who managed a strategic account. I was skeptical of our ability to lead; she was not an engineer, and she didn’t have a technical academic background.

As always, I had many ideas and began to regularly push them—and to ask many questions. I always have suggestions on how to do things differently—in other words, my way. I also talked with contempt to show her that (I thought) she was not a legitimate candidate for the position. My behavior stressed her out.

I've often heard this concern: "I'm not considered as a project manager even though I'm a PMP certified and I've been doing the work for a while". That’s the kind of comment that can shutter self-confidence.

When I took on a new role, a woman on the team told me: “You were chosen because you can speak Arabic.” I cannot speak Arabic (neither do I understand it), and I was hurt because she negated—unintentionally—my skills as a project manager.

How can we improve? Work doesn’t define you completely as a human being. It’s important that when team members introduce themselves, you don’t focus just on their academic credentials and work experience; listen when they share what they like outside of work, and what they struggle with. Understand how they aim to contribute to the team and what added value they bring beyond academic degrees.

2. Start with the positive

Are you always objective? Do you always provide criticism or feedback on something from a factual perspective, or might it differ depending on who developed the work?

When a colleague enthusiastically shows you something they have done and your first response is, “It's good, but...,” that can dampen their enthusiasm and spirit—especially if relates to an area where they lack confidence.

For instance, I’ve improved my skills in PowerPoint, but I still feel insecure about them. So if a colleague modifies a lot of my presentations, it reinforces my inner voice that I’m not good with the application.

How can we improve? Simply asking people to redo things doesn’t help them improve; be sure to use positive reinforcement and explain what needs to be improved, with some best practices or guidelines. This way you help your colleague grow.

3. Follow good role models

In workplaces where technical expertise is valued and technical resources are needed, we sometimes overlook inacceptable behaviors. For instance, a technical expert silencing a less technically savvy colleague in front of everyone, highlighting that what was said was wrong. Or talking with a very authoritative voice, as if giving an order. These types of behaviors should not be followed or encouraged.

How can we improve? Ask yourself: Does my comment add value to the problem that needs solving? Is this an intellectual debate? Or is it a personal attack or an ego booster?

In what ways have you fostered impostor syndrome in your teams? Share your comments below.

 

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: May 25, 2022 02:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

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

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)

Fighting Imposter Syndrome as a Project Manager

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

Why is it so important to recognize and fight imposter syndrome? Over my project manager career, I have often felt imposter syndrome—especially when I began a new position or started on a new team.

Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes developed the concept, originally termed “imposter phenomenon,” in their 1978 founding study “The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women.” Imposter syndrome is defined as “a psychological condition that is characterized by persistent doubt concerning one's abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one's ongoing success.”

Let me share with you a painful memory from my early days as a project manager. I was interviewed for a position in a more operational role, and I felt miserable in the interview. I was hesitant, diminishing what I did (“It was a small project”). I was accepted, but I nonetheless began the new role thinking that I was chosen by luck and not because of my accomplishments.

I was going to replace one contractor on a team that was formed by contractors. I lacked so much self-confidence that I asked many silly questions at each step. One day, I needed to retrieve an FTP file, but I didn't have access. I went to one of the contractors, and he told me, "I will not do it for you because you have to learn to do it." I stayed voiceless.
Imposter syndrome paralyzed my thoughts. In my own head, my behavior gave me an image of strong incompetence. It was a vicious circle. A few years later, I was fortunate to have a 360°-feedback session at an external firm. I met a work counsellor who changed the way I thought about myself.

"The excess of humility—appreciated and encouraged in some cultures and countries—does not serve you well!" she told me. “You have to describe fairly and positively what you achieved." It was an eye-opening conversation.

The way you introduce yourself in a new environment can influence your credibility. Over the years, here are some strategies I’ve developed to fight imposter syndrome:

1. Be proud of your achievements.

Focus on what you have achieved so far. I do this in two ways:

  • I have a dedicated folder in my professional email where I store all the positive feedback/messages I get. It sounds narcissistic, but when I am uncomfortable or insecure, I can go through them to boost my self-confidence.
  • I also have a file where I track both my professional and personal achievements. This also helps me to know my strengths better, and it gives me examples to use during an interview or a self-introduction. Don’t limit yourself to professional settings; you thrive in many other fields.

I will also put sticky note reminders on my computer with some encouraging words and tips—for example: "Speak slowly and breathe when you speak in English" (as English is not my first language).


2. Build a circle of kind friends.

Surround yourself with a circle of kind friends you trust and who can give you honest feedback.

Is there a former alumnus from your college you can reconnect with? A former colleague/manager you can talk to from time to time? Do you know a more seasoned project manager you can connect with?

I don’t mention “mentor,” as I have a team of mentors more than a unique mentor. You may also have friends outside of work willing to listen to you—they will help you reframe the situation you’re experiencing.


3. Join a community.

I’m part of several project management communities at work and through PMI. I’m also a member of some PMI chapters. It’s the place where I turn to when I have doubts.  

Don’t stay alone! Others face the same issues as you, and that realization will energize you and push you to find new perspectives.


What other strategies have you developed? Share your comments below.

 

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: February 17, 2022 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

3 Questions To Ask Yourself This New Year

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

I was a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I used to write clear and precise ones, and I tried to keep them and refer to them during the year. It put me under pressure and, unconsciously, left little space for the unexpected.

But if there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that we cannot control everything. In 2020, there was a lockdown in France—and all that I planned to accomplish could not happen. On the contrary, I could create many new things (like a podcast) and meet new people by getting more involved in volunteering.

A usual January activity for me is to update my CV and portfolio of achievements. It helps me gain confidence. What do you typically do at the beginning of the year to set yourself up for success?

Let's get prepared for this new year! I propose to you three lenses to view this coming year through:

  • What new thing would you like to experiment with?
  • How are you developing your network and meeting new people?
  • What thing do you need to stop?

1. What new thing would you like to experiment with?

Some of us are getting back to work in an office, others continue working from home or in a hybrid model.

How do your teams feel about it? As a project leader, you don't necessarily have the power to change the organizational rules, but you must advocate for your teams.

How were your projects impacted last year? Did you take the time to discuss this with your teams?

Uncertainty, fear and grief might be part of our lives for some months. During this outbreak, we all have learned that work can be done differently and still in a very efficient manner. HHHow can we smooth the work of our teams and colleagues? Shall we reduce the length of meetings and/or reduce the number of meetings? Should we stop having meetings at 6 p.m. on Fridays?

Don't refrain from having big goals, even if it looks ridiculous. You have the right to want to challenge yourself and be ambitious. What new things would you like to try this year?

2. How are you developing your network and meeting new people?

In the Harvard Business Review article “Learn from People, Not Classes,” the writers share this important observation: “The most successful leaders we know learn differently: by tapping into what we call network intelligence.”

Some of you may think that remote work reduces the possibility of meeting new people. Plus, the pandemic has uncovered a strong desire to relate to people differently.

This is what happened to me: I’m more open to video calls than before. What about you? Reach out to the newcomer, even if she is not part of your team, to exchange pleasantries and learn more. Were you were contacted on LinkedIn by a stranger for a question about project management, or did you get a good comment in one of your posts? Write to the person to find out more.

Are there some communities at work you can join? A project management community? Do you take part in extra work activities? What about organizing a virtual coffee break or a tea gathering?

Don’t limit your network to your work colleagues or people only in your field. Take the opportunity of a training/virtual event to meet new people.

That’s how personal growth occurs—through human interactions to feed your mind and get new perspectives.

3. What thing do you need to stop?

There are many reasons to stop an activity. Perhaps you lost interest. Perhaps you don’t have time anymore. Maybe you don't feel at ease in the team, or the requirements and workload of the activity do not fit with your timetable.

Stopping isn't a synonym for failure or lack of perseverance. It's better to be honest with yourself and avoid frustrations that can burst out.

Acting on this will leave you more time to try out something new. By stepping back, you'll begin the year in a more positive mood and with confidence. Accept that you can't control everything.

How do you define your objectives for the coming year? Share your comments below.

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: January 24, 2022 02:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Debunking 3 Project Management Myths

 

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

Our profession faces some consistent myths. During my career, I’ve came across three that I’d like to debunk:

1. Project management is administrative.
When I first applied for a project manager position many years ago, I talked to a PM and he told me: “It’s an administrative role.”

Despite this, I applied and was accepted—and I turned the “administration” into valuable delivery. The administrative part was not created by the project management role, but by the organization around project management in an effort to follow the budget and check the quality of the project; each person wanted a Word document to be filled to check if the project was on the right track.

Documentation is needed on a project…but what level of documentation? And what level of detail?

If someone tells you project management is administration, answer with this:

  • “The level and details of documentation required is defined by the organizational culture in some companies; we must evaluate the aim of the documentation.”
  • “I’m an advocate of always seeking out improvements in documentation.”
  • “As a project team, we will define the level and detail of documentation for onboarding newcomers and for handover.”

2. Project management is repetitive.
In another role, a colleague told me: “Aren’t you going to be bored? Once you deliver this project, all the other ones will be the same.”

But he was wrong, because each project is unique. Of course, in this particular role, there were some commonalities—but the requirements were different, and the people I worked with were diverse. Plus, I could refine the processes and improve the way I worked with practice and experience. I could also train newcomers to the team. So, I didn’t get bored at all.

For some people, project management is not innovative or creative, because they think there are activities or roles with higher status. But project management is creative in that we need to create a path, aggregate knowledge, practice, use tools—and also use intuition. Now with globalization and the hybrid workplace, we are at the forefront of innovation.

If someone tells you project management is repetitive, respond with this:

  • “Each project is unique given its context, requirements and teams.”
  • “Just because the external flow of actions looks the same, that does not mean the path to resolution will be the same. We need to set new norms and rituals. We need to explore the causes of problems.”
  • “In each project, we make retrospectives or lessons learned. These are great moments of collaboration and creativity.”

3. Project Management is about processes.
Project management uses processes to organize the work and define a plan. In some domains, processes are more prevalent than in others, and for good reason: If security issues are involved, processes have to be followed.

But more than processes, project management is about people and how to work together as a team—of knowing how your behavior is going to impact others.

If someone tells you project management is about processes, answer with this:

  • “Processes are used to organize; when you facilitate the work, project management is not used for the sake of processes.”
  • “Processes are not carved into stone; change them if they don’t work.”
  • “The backbone of the project is teamwork.”

As a community and as practitioners, we need to be role models and change the image of project management—which some people like to keep negative narratives about. Don't let others' perceptions diminish the impact you're making on the world.

What other PM myths have you faced? Share your comments below

Posted by Yasmina Khelifi on: December 14, 2021 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)
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