“As a young Project Manager I get this feeling that my youth & inexperience is working against me. Do you have any tips on what it takes to command more respect as a younger PM?”
The easier and straightforward answer is to make sure you deliver successfully; actions definitely speak louder than words. This is the case for any project practitioner regardless of age or experience levels. Do an outstanding job; which not only means delivering the project successfully but also making sure you’re doing that whilst managing expectations of those around you. Sure, there are some practitioners around who may get results by being aggressive or confrontational but really your long-term strategy should be delivering results AND being a good guy too.
Look at your experience levels
You should take a look at your own experience levels and think about what areas you need to improve in – don’t just look at the technical know-how of being a project manager but the areas that make a difference to the type of manager you are. Make sure you study and practice those nuances of project management like leadership; team creation and management; conflict resolution; motivation techniques; negotiation and delegation. All these areas of management will help you develop and become a practitioner who is worthy of respect from both your superiors and the team you manage.
As I stated upfront age does not really come into it; it’s more about your own attitude and how you choose to use those valuable lessons and experiences you are picking up along the way.
Where else can you gain help?
Sometimes you also need a little external help too. A resource to consider is finding a mentor within your current organisation who can act as a sounding board as you develop and learn. The wonderful thing about project management, indeed any kind of managerial role, is that there is help there in terms of management theories and techniques that can assist in terms of giving an insight into “how” you manage but really the style, technique and approach you take are all down to you – albeit with a little trial and error on the way. A mentor can be a great way to help you steer and navigate your way to finding your individual approach.
Mentor or is it a coach?
Another area to consider is coaching. You may find that preferable to a mentor, especially if you would prefer someone outside your own organisation. I’ve found that mid-level project managers get a lot from coaching because fundamentally they know what to do in managing a project, it’s just that real-life doesn’t always work out the way training courses and books have us believe. Coaching helps you to find the answers yourself with a little help from a sounding board. It is particular good if you have situations on the project that constantly arise that you want to change for the better, including the relationships you have with peers, managers and sponsors.
One final piece of advice is the old Greek philosopher quote; “we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”; it’s one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given as a novice manager. Often respect comes by not actually having said a word at all.