New Kid on the Block
Young project managers often have to go the extra distance to prove they can handle the job. So we asked younger practitioners: How do you earn a new team's respect?
Listen to the Voices of Experience
“I've been a project manager since early 2012, when I was 32 years old. Given my age, the biggest challenge is that there are project managers with much more experience. So I speak frequently to those project managers about my current work and ask them about their work. For me, receiving the advice of experienced managers who do the same job and face—or have faced—similar situations is the fastest way to learn.
Part of this is facilitated by the work context. In the Wärtsilä project management team in the Netherlands, for example, it's quite normal that we discuss how to handle certain issues both internally and externally. Therefore, I would always advise talking with more experienced colleagues who can help. As the saying goes, don't reinvent the wheel.”
—Bjorn Hoefnagels, CAPM, project manager, Wärtsilä Ship Power, a PMI Global Executive Council member, Drunen, the Netherlands
Show Your Support
“The following has worked for me:
- Keep advocates close. My advocates have supported me and helped me become an important part of my team. I listen to their advice while tuning out naysayers.
- Be open and available. I've gotten to know many of my fellow teammates in the cities I work in. I've gone out to lunch with them. It's amazing how relationships go a long way toward building trust and respect within a team.
- Volunteer for leadership opportunities where appropriate. Last year, I started a group within our division to help new project managers grow, learn and develop into future leaders. A year later, that approach is being launched at a nationwide level as a pilot program, thanks to its success within our division.
- Never give up. Find your niche and excel at it. Success makes people take notice and will help you gain respect.”
—Carrie-Ann Stuart, CAPM, associate project manager, EMC, a PMI Global Executive Council member, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
“One of the biggest challenges with being a younger project practitioner is that people don't take requests for information and input seriously. This can cause delays and inefficiencies that have significant impacts on project costs and schedules. Being persistent facilitates expedited delivery and in itself engenders respect.
Beyond just persistence, a younger project manager must also embrace hard work. Going the extra mile helps display knowledge and control of the assignment.”
—Martin Kaih Kasanga, PMP, project engineer, West African Power Pool (WAPP) Project, Ghana Grid Company Ltd., Tema, Ghana
Focus on Results
“I started managing projects in a corporate environment at the ripe age of 19. Once I graduated, I managed projects as a consultant for the federal government. At that point, there was some visible hesitance and concern among my clients and their staff. However, once they saw that I knew what was doing, my age was no longer an issue. At the end of the day, results are all that matter.
As long as you deliver, no one will care about anything else.
What's Your Problem?
The best piece of advice I can offer any project management practitioner who's facing challenges related to youth or inexperience is to be patient and have faith in yourself. Someone has placed you in this position because they believe in you and know that you are capable of doing the job. Take the pushback and resistance as part of an unspoken initiation process. Remember, if you believe in yourself, are willing to work with people and are unafraid to ask for help, you will be able to overcome any challenge put in front of you.”
—Akshat Prasad, PMP, president, Capitol Management Consulting Services Inc., McLean, Virginia, USA
Get (and Groom) Them While They're Young
Organizations would be wise to follow in the footsteps of the most forward-thinking companies, which attract strong project practitioners by creating talent management initiatives that include:
- ▪ Defined career paths
- ▪ Grooming of promising top talent by senior management
- ▪ Regular assessment reviews
- ▪ Stretch assignments
- ▪ Mentoring and coaching
Source: Building High-Performance Project Talent, PMI, July 2013
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