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Michelle LaBrosse


Making a Difference As a Project Manager

Four tips for getting the most out of yourself, others, and projects

Published: Monday, July 2, 2018 - 11:01

Project managers—and all professionals, really—pursue credentials in their field for a variety of reasons: to advance their knowledge and skills, to build their reputation, to earn a promotion, or to get a pay raise. All of these are perfectly valid reasons for seeking a credential. Project managers who really stand out from the crowd, however, are those who view credentials as a starting point for their careers and as a means to increasing their impact as a project manager.

Here at Cheetah Learning, we’ve noticed that our certified project management students, such as the Project Management Professional (PMP) or Cheetah Certified Project Manager (CCPM), who make the most difference and experience the greatest success in their careers do four key things. These project managers are committed to being a positive role model to new PMs, continual growth and improvement, finding and developing their own and others’ strengths, and leveraging all of their sources of capital in carrying out their projects.

Be a good role model

People notice what you do much more than they notice what you say or how many credentials you hold. There are three critical elements to being a good PM role model:
1. Fix the problem rather than fix the blame. Having a solutions-oriented approach makes you a go-to person. Complaining and tossing problems onto others makes you a run-from person.
2. Consistently follow a simple process for launching and doing your projects. Running projects is actually a process; having a well-defined one that you improve over time is the mark of a professional.
3. Focus and finish. It isn’t the projects you start that will get you the type of notice you want—it is the projects that you finish. Make sure you set yourself up so that you finish what you start. To do this requires diligence and leadership in the projects you agree to take on.

Keep improving

Commitment to continual growth and improvement as a project manager requires you to reflect on what you know and what you are doing. Project managers who make an impact in their careers adopt a reflective practice and make it a habit—daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, at the completion of project milestones, when they experience project risk events, and during project scope changes. To do this, ask yourself four questions about these experiences:
1. What happened?
2. How did I feel?
3. What did I learn?
4. What am I going to do differently?

When you make this your habit, you strengthen your neural networks for consistent performance improvements as a project manager. You do this by enhancing your brain’s executive functioning capabilities and reduce the chances of getting stuck in time- and energy-sucking stress and worry that activate the flight-or-fight part of your brain.

Find and develop your and others’ strengths

The most successful project managers are not just aware of their own and others’ strengths; they also know how to leverage these to create the most impact through their projects. To begin to develop this skill, ask yourself these questions: Do others know that you will help them best leverage what makes them fantastic? How will you help your project team members become the best versions of themselves by working on your project? Even if you aren’t working with people day in and day out, how can you engage with others in ways that help them to shine?

Leverage all sources of capital to create more value

Strategic stakeholders are often measured according to the return on investment (ROI) of the projects they sponsor. As a project manager, it helps to understand how your project sponsors are being evaluated based on the result of your efforts. Measuring ROI extends far beyond just the financial return on investment of what it costs to run your projects as compared to the financial improvement the results of the project creates. There are five significant sources of capital your project efforts can affect:
1. Financial capital
2. Social capital
3. Knowledge capital
4. Brand capital
5. Infrastructure capital

When you learn how to leverage all five sources of capital for doing your projects and can ensure that you will create a significant return on investment in each of these dimensions, you create a much bigger effect as a project manager.

Learn more about making an impact as a project manager in Cheetah Learning’s free webinar, “Improving ROI as a Project Manager: From Talk to Action,” where you will learn how you can improve the ROI of your projects. Find out more about Cheetah’s classroom and online courses in project management here.

First published on the Cheetah Learning blog.


About The Author

Michelle LaBrosse’s picture

Michelle LaBrosse

Michelle LaBrosse is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring project management to the masses. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program and holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. More than 50,000 people have used Cheetah Learning’s project management and accelerated learning techniques.


Making a Difference As a Project Manager

"It isn’t the projects you start that will get you the type of notice you want—it is the projects that you finish." This is so true! Everyone gets visited by the good idea fairy, but it's the one's who can execute who are going to go places and make things happen.