In my years as a graduate student and having entered (somewhat) the world of young professionals, I’ve come to accept certain things about myself that have been brought up and emphasized by Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager.
- I know that facilitating discussion/asking good questions is important to successfully complete a project.
- My informal authority needs some work.
- I should use the conversation planner.
Facilitating Discussion/Asking Questions
I often want to find a solution and answer questions quickly, but in a team or project setting, this can detract from the valuable contributions of others and the quality of the solution. As a project lead, it’s important to give others the space and time to offer their ideas. When I work as a tutor, leading small groups, two central tenets of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program is that we “facilitate” discussion and coach students into finding answers by way of asking each other or themselves questions. Different scenarios, project lead vs. group discussion lead, but similar practice. One of the tasks of a project manager that I consider to be the most difficult is not dictating a solution (or giving the answer), but letting the team or group work collaboratively, for as long as they need/time allows.
The Four Foundational Behaviors can certainly help me improve my informal authority, but I have to remember and practice them. I already have a level or respect for the people with whom I work, but it’s difficult not to interrupt when you have a relevant contribution and the other person is still speaking. I’ve learned to take notes, on what the person I am speaking with is saying and what I would like to let them know. When I meet with the intern that I technically co-supervise, as we’re both working on completing an extensive annual report for the office, I find it hard to be direct about upcoming tasks or correcting correspondence. When she asks me a question, for example, about the year for which we’re reporting and the baseline year we’re comparing to, sometimes it’s hard to clarify on the spot precisely what she is asking. I then walk away feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing myself, even though it’s as simple as saying, “Let me make sure I have the right numbers (or whatever) and I’ll get back to you.”
I think using the Conversation Planner will help during weekly meetings. At the end of a long week (meetings are on Friday morning), I’m already tired, and focusing on meeting points is difficult. I’ve found myself rambling or getting off-topic during what is supposed to be an updates meeting with the intern with whom I work, so writing out the intent of the conversation, facts, impact, and actions will help with my professionalism.
In sum, sometimes it’s hard to work with people, even if, for a large part of the time, you really enjoy it. Sometimes it’s hard to talk to people about projects or what you need them to do. In the end, there’s no avoiding it. Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager helps lessen the challenges that come with these things.