The middle management minority; using the 6 principles of project management to progress your career.

This blogs borrows from the PRINCE2 seven principles of project management blogged about by projectmanuk; it shall attempt to put the emotional aspects of your career to the side in order to help you progress and achieve your ambitions and goals. It is particularly aimed at minority groups, as they are significantly more likely to face challenges in their work life.  But that being said, the principles can also be applied to a career less likely to face these challenges – quite often the people who would be best placed to lead organisations don’t do so because they place organisational improvement before individual politics; in this circumstance nearly everyone misses out.
  1. Business justification:
Consider your career as a range of short-term projects
·         Undergraduate to graduate,
·         Traineeship to chartered,
·         Chartered to senior, etc.
Then work out how what is required to get you there, how much this will cost and what additional time you will need to put in. Compare this to the return on your investment – and by return I don’t just mean the average salary you are likely to make, but also the value you place on doing your job, the experiences it will give you and the opportunities it will open up. Keep a check on this at certain key points in your career as circumstances can change, ensure you’re are getting what you need and reassess if you are not. If your career is no longer worth the investment it might be worth finding out why and possibly moving firms or changing careers.
  1. Defined roles and responsibilities:
Find out exactly what your job role entails and what the job above you requires. Check yourself against your ability to undertake these tasks. Don’t wait for an internal appraisal be proactive so that when your appraisal does come around, you can justify why you think you are ready for that promotion or rise. If the promotion comes around before you have ticked all the boxes still put yourself forward if you have 60% complete. If nothing else it will give you good experience, but being able to show how you have taken hold of your own development, and the skills you have learned over a given period, can prove that you have what is required to do the job even if you’re are not 100% fighting fit. Also, find out the roles of your managers – I don’t advise that you poke a bear with a stick by pointing out where your managers are going wrong, but rather help where you can – show you are an asset that will move the company forward. In short, make sure you really are doing your job and push to achieve the skills you will need for a promotion. Most importantly, make sure people know about it otherwise there really is very little point – I don’t know about you, but I’m too busy trying to manage my own life to be able to notice every detail of someone else’s.
  1. Manage by exception:
Learn to trust your colleagues and sub-contractors whilst still holding them accountable for their work, in other words let go a little. No one will thank you for micro-managing, and at a professional level you shouldn’t have to. Rather, build relationships and trust and empower those around you to want to produce good work – you’ll be surprised how often people do when given the chance. This doesn’t mean you should be “soft”, if people don’t deliver hold them to account, ensure they redo work and let them know what is and isn’t acceptable – just don’t start a relationship with them as if you have already made up your mind that they will fail, or it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Make sure you record the results of your success; soft skill approaches like this can make managers seem “lucky” as there is no visible cause and effect – so show the long term gain in your approach by measuring how often your projects/contractors come in on time/budget/quality and present this to your managers at appraisal. As previously mentioned, they often only know what you tell them, so tell them more.
  1. Focus on skills:
Think about the skills you want to develop; realistically these should tie into your career plan. Working on the development of these skills can provide you with a way of talking about your development that avoids an emotional situation. For example, instead of talking about how you would have liked to have progressed further and feel unhappy that you haven’t, you can work to develop additional skills that will get you there and use the sum of these skills as evidence for promotion.
  1. Learn from experience:
Don’t risk making the same again and again no matter how unfair the situation might be; consider why certain aspects went well or badly, then incorporate the lessons learned into your approach to your next project. Humans have an amazing capacity to learn, but when it comes to repeating errors made during previous projects, we all too often fail to learn the lessons. If you are not being taken seriously or getting promotions, consider the message you are putting across, learn to manage upwards and sideways as well as down and don’t expect that anyone will notice what you have done just because you have done it.
  1. Tailor to suit the environment:
Understand how your boss and colleagues work tailor your approach. That doesn’t mean changing your personality, rather working to help them achieve their agendas. It can be too easy to base the world of work upon our own ethics of what is right and wrong; how people should and shouldn’t act – in reality, this is rarely the case – we all have our own moral compass and it’s surprising how much they differ.
The biggest problem with discrimination that two-thirds of minority groups in construction are likely to face is that we will never know about it. From unconscious bias to paternal instincts, discrimination rarely makes a grand entrance these days preferring instead to sneak about in the shadows having a subtle, but important, impact on a career that we don’t usually notice until we feel like it’s too late.
By taking firmer control of your career you can at least be sure you are guiding it in the right direction, and whilst this will not always enable you to overcome discrimination and bias, it will at least give you a way forward.