Self Development? Me?…sorry, I’m too busy for that

Be honest, when was the last time you took time out from your project to really focus on yourself?

I ask this as I speak with many project managers who are very busy, so busy they barely return phone calls, their calendars are fully committed to the project(s) or there is little space in their day/week for anything else. As for personal development, forget it.

Self DevelopmentSo, to be direct; this is about development for project managers (and sponsors); it’s about feedback; it’s about learning and what we as project managers should be doing to develop and continuously improve ourselves.

Now many of you will say well, we have a performance management system (PMS) in place at our company. I have queried with many people how effective their PMS is and I do get some mixed responses. I have frequently asked groups of project managers and team members what they think about their performance review and sometimes with their managers present! They were not too positive that it helped them to develop their skills.

So, how do you analyse your performance

Where’s The Feedback?

Feedback is key. Now we know it can sometimes hurt, but it can also be great, one thing is for sure, without it, we are left working in a vacuum and potentially, we are losing valuable learning opportunities for ourselves and our companies.

That project that did not go as well as you thought – notice the words; ‘you thought’. How do you know? Or maybe it was the project you thought was your best yet? It was the best work you have delivered in years! Again, how do you know?

Even if it did go well, the chances that it was perfect are slim. We need to be identifying what we need to do to make an even better impact on our clients and our projects. Continuous improvement requires us to obtain knowledge about ourselves and how we are doing.

How Do We Get The Feedback?

So how do we get that knowledge? It’s about getting feedback which will help your development. But, can we obtain feedback to support our own development? Below you will see a number of options, adapt them to suit your circumstances

  1. Probably the simplest way is to ask. Yes, it depends upon others responding honestly and in a way that will help you now and in the future. But, I’m not saying you simply ask; you build the process into whatever you are doing. For example you are on a 6 month project, why not have in your project plan a learning session 4 weeks into the schedule and another say 4 weeks later? Set it up with a questionnaire which asks some key questions including some regarding your performance.
  2. Measure The Learning – the workplace is a great place to learn so include in your client feedback sessions a way to find out what your client feels they have gained and learned so far. What they learn may surprise you and have an impact on the way you deliver similar assignments.
  3. Get yourself a coach/mentor – coaches see things from a different angle and perspective from you which is why you are employing them! Feedback delivered by a coach is often very powerful and direct. One linked way is to get a buddy partner and let them accompany you to a client.
  4. Create your own community of practice – at its simplest, it is a group of people who come together to share ideas and learn from one another. The group can be simply two people and of course could be many more. They are great places to learn from others and develop yourself.
  5. How about a client care survey? – It is pretty common in the retail sector so why not ask your client and include questions about you and your personal performance.
  6. Develop your own 360 appraisal – People I know who already have such a scheme in place tell me it works really well for them. It may sound daunting to develop your own, but here’s a suggestion to get you started: identify the key skill areas you want to measure and score yourself against and develop a simple rating system such as the one shown below;

This person is strong in:

Score 1-41= don’t know, 2= agree, 3= disagree, 4 = strongly disagree, Comments
Delivering on time
Motivating the project team
Problem solving
Interpersonal skills

Now send this to a range of people; your sponsor, your team members and stakeholders for example. You will need to ensure you position this so it does not come as a surprise. Briefing is essential and your objectives need to be clear and up front. An interesting point to consider; do you feedback to them your results at the end? After all, they have (hopefully) helped you…!

Of course some people will always avoid giving you honest feedback and may not want to participate, but don’t let that deter you; still strive to obtain it no matter how difficult!

Create a Development Plan

Everything you gather from the above suggestions should then feed into your own personal development plan, a plan where you decide how to meet any learning needs you may have. This is a plan you need to own and you need to action, no matter how big or small a company you work for. Involve your direct manager and sponsor or someone in your network – someone who will give you the support and the challenge you need to develop and grow.

It’s About Giving AND Receiving

We need to foster a culture of not only giving feedback to our clients but receiving it from them and others and using this to inform our own development.

I came across this quote recently. It relates to mistakes:

“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself” Sam Levenson

We all make mistakes however we need to turn these into learning experiences and because of the speed of our work ensure that while we make a mistake we only make it once. For those who do not think they make mistakes then maybe George Bernard Shaw has something to offer:

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

I would only add; learn from them and act upon them!

Feedback is the lifeblood of us all. We give it readily and we need to be in a position to receive it as well; making it happen. I regularly get people saying they are starved of feedback and they are really unhappy.

Now over to you to take the time out required to make this all happen. And if you have found any other ways to obtain feedback that have been successful for you, please share them in the comments below.

This is a slightly amended blog posting originally published on TheConsultantLounge web site and can be found at



Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici ID 100297072

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2 Responses to Self Development? Me?…sorry, I’m too busy for that

  1. Pingback: Self Development? Me?…sorry, I’m too busy for that | #PMChat

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