When you start out as a project manager you will no doubt be keen to do the best job possible. We all begin our new jobs with a high level of enthusiasm but sadly this is something which tends to fade out over time.
If you want to become the best possible project manager and maintain this high level for a long time then perhaps you would be best find someone who can inspire you to do this.
One of the most popular ways of settling in to a new role is to find a mentor who can guide you through the early days. Of course, they will still be there for later on as well. Clearly the most important factor here is the person you choose as your mentor. If you get the right mentor then the process of listening to them and learning from them is going to be a pleasure rather than a chore. This is why I think that it is far better to find a mentor naturally rather than by forcing the issue. It is an approach which works best when you find that you have a natural connection with someone and enjoy learning from them. If you get a mentor foisted onto you then it could be a success or a disaster, so if this is suggested to you then you should try to avoid letting other people pick the mentor on your behalf.
An Experienced Colleague
Someone doesn’t have to be an official mentor to you for you to learn a lot from them. I have never officially teamed up with a mentor but I have learned a lot from older and wiser project managers in my time just through sitting near them and listening to them. If you are lucky enough to be near someone who has a wealth of experience in the job then you should look to take advantage of it. My personal tip here would be to get them talking and telling stories. You can learn a lot from just listening to someone who has a lot to talk about. I used to make sure that I always sat next to one of my older colleagues when we went to lunch. As he bit into his habitual ham sandwich I would try and tempt him to tell me some stories about some of the exciting projects he had worked on in the past. I learned something just about every time I listened and he seemed to enjoy talking about his experiences as well. Of course, you won’t just learn from project managers. Stakeholders, team members and business end-users can all give you some great pieces of advice if you know how to listen to them.
A New Colleague
Another person we can’t afford to forget about is the new member of the project team. We can often see ourselves reflected most accurately in the eyes of someone we don’t know well. If you have a new member of your team then have a think about how they see you. Are you the project leader you would like to be? You don’t want to be too harsh on yourself here but getting a new member is a good opportunity to look for a bit of extra inspiration to keep on improving in the project management role.
Maybe you can find the inspiration within yourself to become a better project manager. If you can then this is great news, as you can then keep on improving throughout your career without too much outside help. I have always been keen on learning new skills and going on training courses but I used to work with a guy who seemed to take things one step further. Whenever he wasn’t working he also seemed to be studying something. While I would sit listening to fascinating project stories from the colleague with the ham sandwiches he would be at the other end of the table reading his books. When I look at it this way I think the best I can suggest is that you try and use a bit of everything you can to improve your career. Reading books on the subject is a great idea but don’t forget that you can sometimes pick up a lot more information from listening to someone who has been and done it all in the past or from seeing how a new colleague reacts to your team leading approach.
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