On International Women’s Day I wanted to share some tips from the fabulous women in project management whom I have interviewed on this blog. Looking back through the discussions we had, there is so much wisdom and what struck me was the total willingness to share.
Here are 15 practical tips from our community of amazing women, all tested and proven by the women themselves. Can you make these work in your projects and career? I hope so, as we #PressForProgress.
#1: Book Virtual Meetings on a Schedule
Sofia Hess says:
Virtual meetings are essential for geographically dispersed teams. I think it is important to ensure that they take place on fixed days at fixed times, but also spontaneously when there is something out of the norm. It is important to concentrate on the essentials to ensure these meetings are not long-winded.
That being said, I believe virtual meetings can’t replace the regular exchange one has with a colleague that’s sitting next to them. Virtual meetings simply cannot replace in-person meetings. Therefore we meet about once a month in person. This is incredibly important for our team.
Emma Seaton-Smith says:
When I started in project management I wish I had known more about what I shouldn’t be doing. It’s not about shirking your responsibilities, but about effective use of your time.
If there’s a task that can be allocated to an administrator or tasks that can be managed by implementing a process for others to follow, then invest the time in setting that up.
#3: Understand The Strengths of Your Team
Kate Morris says:
By implementing Gallup Strengths in my team, I was able to assign projects, project resources and delivery outcomes complementing their individual strengths, resulting in better outcomes and a happier team.
I loved encouraging different perspectives and collaboration. In turn, my team developed a deeper understanding of their strengths. And this learning in skills assessment was adopted by other teams, benefitting individual team members and the company.
Understand what you bring to the table. My skills sets are not the same as my male counterparts and that’s a fantastic thing! I am where I am today because I offer a different perspective.
Invest time in understanding your strengths and improving. Knowing what you do best and how you achieve satisfaction from your job is so powerful.
#4: Stay Up To Date with Technology
Rachel Gertz says:
Technology is sweeping over every single industry and is fundamentally changing the way humans interact and solve problems together: automating feedback, shortening the learning and on-boarding cycles, not to mention revolutionising our tools to provide great transparency and collaboration between stakeholders.
This is radically changing project management approaches and outcomes. Rigid bodies of knowledge will be forced to adapt to keep up with this pace as work culture and job roles shift. In other words, we need to think differently about the way we do project management.
Project management requires a supreme amount of emotional intelligence and critical thinking. This role will be one of the last to be automated as artificial intelligence and machine learning creep up the employment ladder.
#5: Make Time for Personal Development
Pam Shergill says:
Quite often, women have challenges of managing a house, children and a fulltime job. Take time out each week and invest in your personal development. Read blogs and inspirational stories about other people in project management and be inspired! Think I can… rather than … if only!
Set out a plan for what you want to achieve, write it down with clear actions and timelines of what you want to achieve and when. Set yourself small milestone tasks to get there. Invest time and energy with a coach or mentor to keep you on track. If you want something bad enough, and you are committed then it’s possible to fulfil your dreams.
#6: Know that All Your Experience Matters
Karen Chovan says:
Know what you’re passionate about, and place value on all of the skills you’ve developed from every position you’ve ever held. Including those waitressing jobs, sales positions or less exciting, laborious things you’ve done. You have picked up important skills at every stage, and you just need to recognise them, and share that with others.
Don’t sell yourself short, don’t ever let someone tell you what you can’t do. If they do, carry on anyway, and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.
You really can do whatever you set your mind to, so long as you put in the work. And never underestimate how the smallest connections you make might come back to you – in a positive or negative way – always put your best self forward.
#7: Be Self-Aware
Natalie Warnert says:
I wish I had known how much self-awareness the role takes. It’s hard to examine failure and examine yourself but it’s vital!
By being able to have that vulnerability with yourself you can pass it along to your team and help them to improve too.
There are so many resources at your fingertips from blogs to online and in-person trainings to books! You do not have to be an expert – far from it – you just have to be willing to learn and fail and help others do the same.
#8: Check Progress Constantly
Erica Pepitone says:
Even when your projects seem to be going well, do audits and health checks – don’t get too comfortable! Ask as many questions as you need to and ensure everyone in the room is on the same page and hearing the same thing.
A lot of a project’s success depends on how the team works together, so invest in those relationships with your team members.
#9: Live (And Work) Your Values
Traci Duez says:
I encourage my clients to think of their retirement party or their funeral… What 6 words do you want to hear as those closest to you describe the person you are/were? Do you want to hear them say… “That Elizabeth, she was amazing with Gantt Charts!” And, “Her risk management plans were to die for”?
Most folks want to make a difference in the lives of others. They want to hear words like “loving, inspiring, compassionate, caring, hard-working, dependable, loyal, faithful, real, genuine and authentic.”
As a leader and project manager, you must do two things:
- Work every day on gaining more of the attributes that you want to become; and
- If a project or task doesn’t help you to become more of the person you want to be, don’t do it!!
I know that might sound harsh yet we are only on this earth for a very limited amount of time. I believe you are put on this planet to become the person you want to become. No one is going to be you. No one is going to help you become who you want to become. That is your “job” and your purpose.
#10: Grow Your Leadership Skills
Sarah Coleman says:
I believe that the relevance and value of leadership competencies and behaviours across all levels and functions of the business, including projects, is becoming more apparent. Regardless of whether you have the title of “leader” or “manager”, “planner” or “administrator” we all understand that leadership capabilities are useful to your role.
This is not to diminish the importance or role of planning, risk, value analysis and all other traditional “hard” skill sets; rather, it is a rebalancing of the skills required.
Since my own background is in project and programme management, I find the shift towards leadership especially interesting and exciting.
#11: Get The Right Team
Monica Borrell says:
I think what’s most important in delivering quality projects boils down to a few simple things that can be summarized as teamwork: a shared vision, clear roles and responsibilities, team members who are emotionally mature and self-aware, pervasive leadership, collaboration, and communication. If you get the team right, the rest is details.
#12: Do It Your Own Way
At my very first project as a construction manager a very experienced and mature team leader from a contractor said to me: “I really enjoy and appreciate working with you. It often happens with female construction managers that they are particularly concerned about being accepted and therefore try to establish themselves by being rude, rough and ‘using their elbows’ which results in the contrary. But you just do your job like everybody else and you do it very, very well.” I‘ve really valued his feedback and tried to keep it in mind throughout my career.
Therefore my tip for women wanting to do a similar role: don’t try too hard to get accepted by adopting a behaviour which is not yours. Follow your instincts and don’t do anything simply because it’s always been done this way – find your own way and bring your own touch to projects.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be a big gesture; even small things can make a difference.
For example I once took over a project from a colleague. There was a whole day of meetings every week and there was no break scheduled throughout the day, it was simply meeting after meeting. As I took over the project I introduced half an hour of lunch break.
This made a big difference as first of all the people were refreshed after the break, but more importantly they used the lunch break to talk informally about certain issues of the project and resolved them during the break.
#13: Build Your Network
Ellen Maynes says:
I learned that the best project managers were the ones who connected with people, were great leaders, team-builders and communicators.
Don’t go it alone. Connect with others doing what you do (or want to do). Technology has also made it very easy to stay connected, no matter where you are.
#14: Plan Your Stakeholder Engagement
Caroline Crewe-Read says:
Generalising is often unwise but I do think that women have a natural gift for relationship-building and for engaging openly and constructively with stakeholders and colleagues which stands us in very good stead when considering one of the key criteria for the successful delivery of projects and programmes.
So my tip would be to take confidence from this, recognise that this may be the USP which marks you out from colleagues and build robust stakeholder engagement into any programme or project plan.
#15: Invest in Training
Helen Hitchmough says:
More than anything else, the [PRINCE2] training helped me because I was able to talk about projects and ideas with the other people there. Studying with other people brings project management more to life, by using case studies and talking to the other delegates. It’s all about pictures in your memory; being in the training room helps you remember later.