One of the main distinguishing factors from project managers who work on small vs large projects is their confidence level. The fastest way to progress in your career as a project manager is through building your confidence levels. The more confidence you have, the more you progress to work on bigger and more exciting projects, and to be adventurous in your career because you back yourself.
While nothing compares or beats experience and time at the coal face, there are strategies to speed up the time it takes to build your confidence as a project manager.
1. Proficiency in technical detail. The easiest way to boost your confidence is to study every area on the project. As a younger PM I used to take my contracts home at night and read them before I went to bed. It wasn’t long before one of my biggest strengths became knowing the contract inside and out.
Understanding the details on the drawings, approvals and key risks on your projects will:
a) Allow you to contribute to the discussions on technical issues more easily.
b) Make you feel you are across your projects.
c) Give you the ability to resolve issues in the moment as you will understand the parameters of the contract and scope of works.
d) You will also identify risks and potential issues early which will add value to the project team.
2. Build connection and rapport with your team. Spend time to get to know the members of your team. Understand their current workload, capability, expertise and what’s important to them. The stronger the relationship you have with your team, the easier it will be to resolve issues when they come up—but the most important thing is it will make you feel authentically embedded within the project team and this will boost your confidence. Make an effort. On site, call and talk to the team. Go that little extra mile. People remember it. They’ll think, ‘he’s a nice guy, I’ll take his call or answer his email’. That’s how it works.
3. Look to help and be of assistance to others. One of the skills I learnt early on in my career was that going the extra mile or being very attentive to other team members— essentially doing what I could to make their job as easy or efficient as possible—benefitted me in two ways:
a) It gives you an insight into the demands of their area of expertise, which you can only learn and grow from
b) When the shoe is on the other foot and you need help, the law of reciprocity means you will more than likely receive a helping hand.
4. Take on any constructive criticism. Everyone is going to receive constructive criticism or feedback in their career, so it’s best to get it over and done with early. Yes, the truth can often be hard to hear but it will be a valuable tool to help you overcome your challenges by making you better at your job. In the long term that boosts your confidence.
5. Be honest about what you don’t know and ask for help. If people question you about something and you don’t know the answer, admit it. Be honest. Say, ‘I don’t have any experience in this area of design. Can you help?’ It changes the dynamic of the conversation. Instead of seeing you as a bluffer, they step back and help you through it. You get more respect and get closer to people by doing that. When you pretend to know what you’re doing, people see through it and it breaks the trust. Then they’re less likely to share what they know. When you admit you don’t know something and need help, you’re likely to be stepped through it—and once you know something, you can’t unknow it. In my earlier days I had issues with air conditioning and the science behind glass. I asked the right questions to the right people and learned all there was to know. It also teaches you the skill of extracting knowledge.
6. Insert yourself into difficult situations. It’s amazing what getting through a difficult situation instead of sitting on the sidelines does to your confidence. Putting yourself in a scary situation or one where you’re trying to resolve or work through issues on a project means you grow in ability while growing in confidence.
7. Have the attitude to be a sponge. By building the mindset of wanting to learn and grow, that’s how you view everything and it changes the way you communicate and interact with people. Shutting down the ego and opening up all channels, learning from a stack of different people and taking the best bits from what you find out will raise your confidence as quickly as possible.
Matt Grbcic, Founder MG Group