Rebuilding Your Confidence After Project Failure

I’ve just left a six-month contract for a project which ended up in a failure for all sorts of reasons. It has really knocked my confidence. How can I start to get over this and get back out there?

First thing, take a step back, and don’t think about jumping straight back into another role. You need to give yourself permission to take some time for reflection. What do we mean by reflection? I guess it could also be called your own ‘lessons learnt’ as we often refer to it in project management speak.

It’s easy to fall down the rabbit-hole into negative self-talk and overthinking what went wrong, what could you have done better and so on. We often forget that projects have a habit of doing this – going wrong! And we also know they go wrong for lots of reasons, not just our own actions to blame.

It’s the combination of different factors and we can start by understanding the bigger picture of what happened over that six months and start to rationalise it. I think you’ll soon start to see that some of it was way out of your control and other parts, yes, sure you could have chosen a different way to tackle something.

Once you’ve started to take that step back, removed the emotion out of it, you can start to get that project manager hat back on again and think about what you’ve learnt from the six months in a practical sense. It’s about taking something positive away from every assignment you have regardless of how the project played out.

In my experience there are three great ways to leave a bad assignment behind and move on. The first is all about addressing your confidence levels. Take some time out and spend some of that on your own professional development. Yes, take a course you’ve been meaning to for a while. New knowledge has a habit of making us feel reenergised and reinvigorated – ready to take something new on again.

Doing this also leads to the second way to get over something like this – be more discerning with the next assignment you take on. If there is one lesson we can learn is to make sure you don’t take another assignment with all the same hallmarks. That means you’re going to be selective with the interviews you attend and when you do, you’re going to think about the questions that need to be asked during that interview to undercover what the assignment is really all about.

The third way – and one which all project managers should be mindful of and that’s just to talk it out with someone you trust. Many project managers also find solace in finding a coach or mentor for a while to help them overcome what they might perceive as their own failings. We all know that project management is a high-stress profession, and we need to remember we’re all human at the end of the day and we must be kinder to ourselves.

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