Respect means different things to different people in different cultures and age groups and environments. However, I think we can all agree that being respected as a project professional is something that we all strive to attain.
Earning respect—and it something you have to earn— is easier than you think, even if you have very little experience with managing projects. Respect must be earned by the actual people on your team; it is not earned by the attainment of abstract notions of success that you have for yourself.
Here are 5 things that I think will help you earn respect from your team and stakeholders.
Professionalism for project managers stems from a number of points. First, use respected tools. Make sure you are using industry-standard products for Gantt charts and time sheets and project plans. Professional tools enable you to be more successful because they save you time with automation, allow you to see your projects in real-time with visual dashboards and generate custom reports for stakeholders.
Second, use respected methods. You could obtain a credential or qualification that shows others that you know how to manage projects. Or you can simply know your stuff and work with established industry practices. How do you do that? You make sure you never stop learning. When you make skill-building a regular part of your practice, you will also be more confident that you know your industry’s best practices and latest methods.
Third, act ethically. PMI has an ethics code of conduct that is freely available online. Anyone can agree to abide by this, whether you are a PMI member or not, so it is worth reading it (or the ethics code of conduct for your own professional body) to make sure you are familiar with the contents and what ethical behavior means in the context of your projects.
2. Be Honest
When your project sponsor asks if something can be achieved, be honest. Don’t give the answer that you think he or she wants to hear (such as, “Yes of course we can integrate that 30-day change into the project with no extra resources, time or impact on quality”). Tell them the straight truth. They will appreciate your honesty, and you’ll avoid any problems that may hit later through being less than truthful.
Even when you don’t know the answer, be honest, as well. It is much better to say that you don’t know, if the alternative is making up an answer on the spot. If you do have to confess your ignorance, go back and find out the answer and follow up. This also shows that you have the ability to deliver and follow through, something else that you’ll be respected for.
3. Be Trustworthy
Many projects involve maintaining confidentiality. That could be anything from staff salaries that have knowledge of in order to budget effectively, or ‘secret’ projects that may have an impact on your own work, to elements of office politics or contract clauses. It could be something as simple as not discussing another supplier’s bid with the winning vendor or sharing data between two customers.
Discretion as a project manager is key. No project sponsor is going to be impressed with you if they hear through the grapevine that you have been talking about your project and the confidential elements of it in a way that is inappropriate – that’s a fast way to lose any respect that you may have built up.
4. Be Trusting
Don’t micromanage your team. Project team members are generally subject matter experts with their own sense of professionalism and the desire to do a good job for the benefit of the organization overall and this project specifically. OK, you may (from time-to-time) work with someone who doesn’t fit that description, but in the main people are chosen to work on projects because they have earned respect themselves in their own professional field, and someone else (like your sponsor) thinks they would be an asset to the team.
You can trust these people—and you should. They will also respond well to being trusted because you demonstrate confidence in their abilities. Personally, I would go with the approach of trusting someone to do their job until they prove that they cannot be trusted. If this happens, I would then think about what strategies I could employ to help them improve, but micromanaging people before this point wouldn’t be a valuable strategy.
Finally, the biggest thing you can do to earn respect as a project manager is to make sure that you deliver on your promises—and deliver on your project. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you can’t do it as a result of circumstances beyond your control, then you should say that, too, so that you don’t ignore the commitment made to the individual concerned.
Delivering on your project means doing the best you can to get the project completed successfully and on time to the required scope and quality levels. I know it isn’t always possible to complete a project as they get stopped for a number of reasons, or cancelled. But if your project is still a concern, then you’ll earn respect by making sure you do the best you can to help it finish.
Being a well-respected project manager does take time, and as with any job you have to build up a reputation. That reputation, however, starts today. Think about how you are performing today and how that contributes to your reputation overall. Do the tasks that help you earn respect and drop those bad practices that might be, at one end of the scale, unethical, or at the other end, just not necessary.
Professionalism, honesty, trust and performance will all help you earn respect as a project manager. If you do all of those things well then I guarantee you’ll be well regarded in your organization.
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