Project Practitioners > Confidence and Humility

Confidence and Humility

By Kent McDonald

I like to think I have a pretty good handle on how to manage a project. After all, I have been managing projects for the better part of 10 years. I have a lot of confidence in my abilities as a result of those experiences. But as I figured out recently, that should by no means prevent me from having the humility to ask for advice. Come to think of it, having the humility to ask others for their feedback and advice is one sign of confidence in your own abilities. So how have I seen these two potentially conflicting ideas interact?

I recently started working as a project manager on a new data warehousing project. The project is just getting underway, and the first thing the team needed to do is establish a clear, agreed upon scope so that we know just what we were trying to estimate. One thing I have been doing longer than managing projects is analysis work, so I felt pretty confident that I knew of the perfect way to express the requirements for this project so that they were clear and useful for estimating purposes. But a voice in the back of my head, and lessons from my youth (a couple of weeks ago), told me that I should seek out some opinions from others whom I respected. I asked a couple of business analysts in the organization to take a look at the requirements provide their feedback. They were going to be assigned to the project once it really got going, so this was an opportunity to get them familiar with the project and also get their feedback on what I had done so far. It was a very worthwhile conversation. Because I asked for feedback, and genuinely wanted to hear what was said and follow their advice, the revised requirements were much more effective at conveying the problem that the project was trying to solve.

It actually took a lot of confidence on my behalf to open myself up to that feedback and act on it. I know this because I have recently found myself on the opposite side of the situation. I was working on another project with a group of people for whom I have the utmost respect. I had spent a great deal of time working on my aspect of the project and I thought that I had produced something great. But I never had the confidence in my abilities on that particular project to accept the feedback as it was intended a way to help me get better. I ended up taking some of the feedback personally, which resulted in some wasted time and energy as we worked through the issues that resulted. We eventually worked through it, and the whole episode taught me a big lesson about the need to balance confidence and humility.

The moral of the story: it is important to have confidence in your abilities, but no one is ever so good that they can't learn something from somebody else. The key is to find someone you respect, humbly ask them for feedback, and be prepared to listen to what they have to say and act on it. The results will be much better in the long run, and chances are at some point those people whom you have asked for feedback will ask you for your feedback.



Related Links
One area most of us could probably improve (and get feedback on) is our tendency to throw pebbles instead of moving boulders. Get and give constructive, valuable feedback to project team members with project performance appraisals and make sure everyone gets credit. This project manager development profile can help you keep track of strengths and needed areas of improvement on your staff.




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