Forget Networking, Build Relationships

I was sitting in front of a classroom of eager college juniors and seniors. I was on a panel of digital professionals talking to the students about potential jobs in the tech industry and how our paths led each of us to where we are now. Each panelist lauded networking as a way to further a career in tech and explained its importance in their own professional journeys.

The students certainly seemed to grasp the value of networking, but they struggled to understand the “how.” But as they asked their questions, a new thought occurred to me–‘networking’ often feels like an ambiguous, awkward exercise in small talk. Our focus should actually be on the more intentional, personal process of building allies.

The ability to build allies may be the most valuable skill in your professional toolbox. Your allies are the trusted people around you who offer their support, assistance, advice, information, protection, and even friendship. They supplement your skills and compensate for your weaknesses with their unique abilities and approaches. They can help you view situations from a different perspective. Your allies are there when you need to work through an idea, be talked off a ledge, or when you need someone to just pause and listen.

But you may be wondering… How do I create allies? Who are they and where do I start? What do I do once I’ve built these relationships? And why is this even important?

Read more at Coax

5 Ways to Invest in Your Project Managers

Do you remember the Disney movie Hercules? The classic tale follows the story of an awkward outcast with incredible superpowers who knows that he is meant for something greater. Hercules feels led to help people, to build relationships and to be accepted. But he feels so alone and he doesn’t know how to use his powers. Then, at his lowest point our lovable protagonist learns that he is the son of the mighty Zeus, and everything clicks. Armed with newfound purpose, Hercules seeks out a trainer and finds Philoctetes. Philoctetes guides and supports the demigod through challenge after challenge, and Hercules grows into a mythological hero with his name in the stars.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: project managers are superheroes. Just like Hercules, PMs have incredible powers, but they may not understand how they can be best used. They may not even realize their talents are superpowers at all! Project managers may also feel uncertain, isolated and misunderstood in their roles. But like our Greek hero, once a PM finds their purpose and their support system, they become an unstoppable force, slaying project hydras, lions and Titans.

Whether project management is a new discipline in your organization or you have a growing PM team, investing in your project leads is always a good idea. Put simply, project managers have a big impact on your organization’s bottom line. Because of the nature of their role, your project leads are ultimately responsible for your organization’s profit margins, team capacity and the satisfaction of your employees. Healthy project managers contribute to the health of your organization. Fortunately, by providing your PMs with training, mentors and challenging opportunities, you can support them on their path to becoming legendary project leads. 

Read more at the Bureau of Digital

Finding My Power in PM

Project management is probably one of the most difficult roles in this industry to define. Countless articles, blog posts, and books will give you varying definitions. Expectations of project leads are likely to change depending on your organization, your team, and the project you are working on. If you were to try polling a sample group of PMs, they would tell you that they all entered this field along wildly different paths. For a long time, I kept asking myself the chicken and the egg question: Does a person become a PM because of their personality and their gifts? Or are their personality traits shaped through their experiences as a project manager?

When I first got into project management, I thought I could be successful in this role because of my organizational skills and attention to detail. I wanted so badly for my abilities to fit within the business’ structure and for them to boost the success of our projects. But after a while, I realized that “good project management” does not ask that I fit neatly within existing structures. In fact, the best project management that I can offer my team combines my unique skills and my unique shortcomings. It requires me to sit comfortably in my humanity even if that means challenging the status quo.

Reflecting on my work career, I realize that every job I’ve ever held has been service-oriented. From retail to restaurants, from marketing coordination to account management, I have consistently found my home in jobs that require me to be my most human self in service of other humans. And the longer I manage people and projects the more I see project management—more than many others in this industry—as a role where humans are in service to other humans.

Read more at Coax

Building Your PM Skills with The Art and Science of Leading Teams

If you or a project manager you know is looking to build and improve your project management skills, you need to check out The Art and Science of Leading Teams. This program is a brand new, free project management course put on by the one and only Brett Harned in partnership with Team Gantt!

The online courses cover such topics as: estimating, getting the most out of your meetings, requirements planning, communication, and scope creep. The program is backed by years of industry experience and best practices, and as a special bonus, many of the courses include clips and tips from expert DPMs in our industry. You may even see clips from yours truly! 😉

Find the classes available here>

DPM Summit 2018: The Importance of Asking Why

I am overjoyed to announce that I will be a speaker at this year's Digital PM Summit in Memphis, Tennessee!

I will be leading a breakout session talking about the importance of asking why and how "why" can break down project hurdles related to workflow, process, and communication. This workshop will teach practical ways to uncover the root of difficult problems and strategies that use "why" to improve project documentation, relationships, operations, and a PM's path of career growth.

Learn more at the Bureau of Digital

People Are People

Have you ever found yourself in an echo chamber at work—you look around and everyone thinks like you, talks like you, looks like you, and problem-solves the way you do? While this might make for a very comfortable environment in which to go about your day, it does not create one that is conducive to innovation, creativity, or truly effective problem-solving.

The technology industry is a pretty homogenous world. This isn’t a big secret, but it’s something that no one really likes to talk about. But we have to first acknowledge our problems if we want to address them or challenge them. Fostering diversity on our teams and in our companies is becoming more and more important. When individuals have the freedom to identify and express themselves authentically, workplace satisfaction improves, creativity flourishes, problem-solving becomes faster, more dynamic, and more productive, and whole teams find that they function and perform better.

Now this may seem like a dream, but it is neither fantastical nor unrealistic. Organizations all over the world are implementing changes to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces and they offer lessons for others to follow, pitfalls to avoid, and best practices to emulate. And that means that regular people like you and I can follow in those footsteps and help make our workplaces more inclusive and welcoming of diversity. It’s going to be uncomfortable, but it’s going to be so worth it and will only benefit you, your teams, your projects, your company, and your clients.

Read more at Coax

Signs You Are a Great PM

Imposter syndrome is real isn’t it? Being a project manager can be so challenging. Sometimes we can get so deep in the weeds of a tricky project or situation and when we finally lift our heads from the trenches covered in twigs and mud, we may wonder if we’re even doing our jobs well or if we’ve chosen the right career path.

I have struggled with this more times than I can count. For a long time, I’ve been the only project manager at the companies where I’ve worked, and it can be hard to have a benchmark for what is “good work” when you’re working in a silo. Joining the DPM community has helped me immensely, and when I struggle with imposter syndrome now I am so thankful that my DPM community helps me keep my head on straight.

But, for whatever reason, if you find yourself wondering if you’re succeeding as a project manager, here are 5 ways to help you know if you are indeed a good PM.

Read more at The Digital Project Manager

5 Techniques For Building Strong Relationships In Virtual Teams

As modern project managers, we have so many roles, and managing relationships is one of the most important ones. Our position makes us responsible for project health and gives us the special opportunity to nurture the health of our teams and our ongoing relationships with clients. When we invest in relationships with the members of our project team, we help to build teamwork and collaboration, improve communication, create a creative and solution-bound project environment, and build stakeholder investment in our common goal–the success of our project. Above and beyond our day-to-day tasks, relationships give meaning and significance to the work we do as project managers.

As a member of a digital agency, I often find myself working with remote teammates and clients, and, more often than not, our relationship building occurs over the phone, video calls, and online chat tools. Most people prefer to spend as much time in-person as we can with the members of our project teams, but how do we make sure that our communication remains compassionate and empathetic even when it occurs over digital mediums?

Here are 5 simple but incredibly effective techniques for successfully building relationships with your remote team and clients when communicating virtually. Taking these steps helps people to see that you value them and, in doing so, helps you build critical project allies with the stakeholders involved.

Read more at The Digital Project Manager

The Importance of Community

Although I've been to the Digital Project Manager Summit put on by the Bureau of Digital year after year, the most important thing I gain from attending the conference remains the same: the ability to connect with people like me.

Before attending the Summit, I had never before met anyone who did what I did. Like many DPMs, I fell into this career much ‘by accident,’ and it has been a fast-paced learning experience since the very first day. It has always felt a little bit lonely to be learning so much by myself and not have anyone to run ideas by or find solutions to problems with. I often longed for a DPM buddy to help me make sure that I’m not (too) crazy when I try to make a company-wide change, to learn from their unique experiences, and to commiserate with. That wish was met from the very first moment at the DPM Summit, and remains the most heartwarming and validating part of the DPM community.

Read more at Foster Made

Three Essential Elements to Effective Communication

Whatever your field of work is, communicating with other people is likely a fundamental part of your job. While it can be one of the most challenging tasks, it is arguably the most important, and one of the most rewarding! Even if you are the best at whatever you do, the importance and impressiveness of your work is diminished if you can’t effectively communicate with your team members, your supervisors, and your clients.

Through many years of practice, I have learned three essential elements to effective professional communication. Consistently reminding myself of these three elements gives me the tools that I need to comfortably and competently handle most any conversation I may need to have.

Read more at Foster Made