A Project Management Article by Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, Chief Cheetah and Founder of Cheetah Learning
How do you define career success, and how do you know when you’ve attained it? Perhaps there’s a particular salary level you’d like to reach, or maybe for you “career success” means working in your dream job. But think a little deeper. Say you get that dream job - what would it look like for you to reach your highest potential in that position? Here at Cheetah Learning, we tend to define “success” a little differently than the way most people use this term. With regard to our students, we truly believe that their success is our success.
That is to say, we find that the value you create for others is a crucial part of your own career success. Regardless of your job type or position, there are numerous ways you can leverage your strengths to help others reach their personal and professional goals. In this article, we’ll outline ways you can create more value for others in four key dimensions of your professional and personal life: work clients and other direct project beneficiaries; your supervisors and your organization; your co-workers; and, outside of work, the people you’re closest to in your life.
Creating value for your clients and direct project beneficiaries is the most obvious of these dimensions. Clearly, if you don’t deliver value to your clients, you risk losing this client and maybe even your own job. We won’t linger too long then on why it matters that you create value for your clients - you know this already. Instead, we’ll dive right in to how to best create value for your clients and other project beneficiaries.
A great way to create more value for your clients is to deliver value incrementally via an agile approach. “But, my organization’s not agile!” you say. That’s okay - you can still adapt agile tools to your own projects, regardless of your organization’s preferred project methodology.
The first step in setting up your project to deliver value incrementally is to clearly define small- and large-scale deliverables in the planning phase. Spell out when during the project timeline each of these will be completed, even more minor deliverables that are part of a larger project milestone. By completing deliverables for your client in many smaller increments, you create value for them even if the larger project falls through before it can be brought to completion.
The second key dimension in which you can create more value for others is by creating value for your supervisors and, ultimately, your organization. If you don’t know what or how much value you’re creating for your organization, how likely is it that your boss will, either? It’s crucial for you to understand the value you add to your organization. At the end of the day, your success is contingent on their success!
When we talk about knowing the value you create for your company or organization, we don’t mean that you need to get into nitty-gritty ROI calculations - for some jobs, this just isn’t possible. Rather, we find that the best way to create the maximum value for your organization is actually quite simple: get your projects done, and get them done fast.
The bottom line is that the only projects that “count” - that contribute to an organization’s success - are projects that get done. And the best way to make sure those projects are brought to completion is by setting tight deadlines for yourself and your project team. Here at Cheetah, we’ve found that tasks take the amount of time allocated to them. So when you set loose, far-off deadlines, you’re setting yourself and your team up to put off the project until the last minute, or until it’s been forgotten about. Learning and mastering project planning and time management skills that work for you is crucial to becoming an employee who gets their projects done and gets them done fast.
Apart from mastering the ability to get projects done fast, a great way to create more value for your organization is by developing skills in negotiations. Negotiation situations provide a place that can significantly impact the value you provide to your organization. In a negotiation, there’s the possibility that you could lose your company a lot of money - but you also have the opportunity in this moment to save your organization a lot of money, foster positive business relationships with external and internal stakeholders, and reach agreements that create value for everyone involved.
When you develop strong skills in negotiations, you learn how to go into a negotiation prepared - knowledgeable about what you want out of the negotiation, what the other party wants, points of agreement between you and the other party, what you’re unwilling to compromise on, and how to tactfully maneuver out of manipulative negotiation tactics. Rather than approaching negotiation situations with fear, when you master these skills, you’re able to leverage negotiations as sites of opportunity to create enormous value for your organization.
The third dimension of creating value for others involves creating value for your co-workers. Compared with the first two dimensions, this one might not seem as obvious: if they’re not your boss or your client, why should you care about your co-workers’ success? This is because, as the cliché goes, “no man is an island.” Even seemingly “individual” projects you take on at work almost always require some collaboration with others. Ultimately, then, project success depends on your ability to work with others.
To most successfully collaborate with others, we suggest approaching it from the perspective of, “what’s in it for them?” Before you ask someone to help you with something, for example, pause for a minute to consider their point of view. If someone were to ask you for help on a project, how would you prefer to be asked: with “I need you to…”, or with “I am working on X, and I could really use your expertise to do Y. Would you have time to help me with this?” This isn’t just about being nice (though it’s about that, too). When you develop positive collaborative relationships with your co-workers, you learn to work together on projects that build on each team member’s unique strengths.
Consider these statements below to give yourself a mini-assessment of how much value you create for others in your work:
- In my current job, I make an effort to help my co-workers succeed.
- I see others' success and happiness as essential to my own.
- I embrace opportunities to work with "challenging" people, as I see this as an opportunity for growth.
- I easily recognize my co-workers' unique strengths.
- When working on a team or organizing an event with others, I ensure people do tasks best aligned with their strengths.
- Before entering into any negotiation-type situation, I assess how to create the most value for everyone in the negotiation.
- I am able to find my common ground with others in any interaction, even tense negotiations, to help bring out the best of everyone.
- I take time to acknowledge the people in my life who help me, even in small ways.
Did you find yourself mostly agreeing or mostly disagreeing with these statements? If you disagreed with many of these statements, you may want to “slow down” a bit in the pursuit of your goals to interact more intentionally with others. This can be as simple as pausing before you send out an email to think, “How might it feel to read this email? Have I communicated my message in a way that its recipient will feel respected and motivated to help me?” Far from being a “waste of time,” this effort you make to collaborate more intentionally with others will pay back dividends in terms of how fast you get projects done and how well you and your project team communicate with each other.
Lastly, we find that it’s important to think about creating value for others beyond the work environment. One of our mantras here at Cheetah is that “life is a series of projects.” And like any project you’ll encounter in the work environment, projects in your personal life have stakeholders, requirements, and deadlines. It may seem silly to worry about getting “stakeholder buy-in” for your personal projects - let’s say, for example, planning a Christmas party. Actually though, we find that getting stakeholder buy-in for these sorts of projects is especially important, as personal projects will likely involve the most important people in your life.
Doing these sorts of projects poorly doesn’t just cost time and resources - it can also harm significant relationships in your life. By taking the time to figure out “what’s in it for them” when it comes to people helping you with your personal projects, you find out ways to engage them that create value for them and which give them intrinsic motivation to help you out again with future projects.
Expressing your appreciation is another key part of providing value for others. If someone has helped you in a way that did not cost them great time or resources, a simple “thank you” may be adequate. But if someone has sacrificed considerably to help you, you’ll need to do more to create value for them - with monetary compensation or some other repayment in time or resources. “Using” people catches up to you. A better strategy is to find ways to genuinely create value for others when you engage them in your projects.
We’ve reviewed four areas in your professional and personal life where you can create more value for others: in your relationships with clients, with your supervisors and your organization, with your co-workers, and with the “stakeholders” in your personal projects. A great way to build skills in each of these areas is through personality-based Project Management training programs like Cheetah Learning’s Cheetah Certified Project Manager (CCPM) program. In this program, students learn their innate strengths, based on their Myers-Briggs personality type, for learning, doing projects, and negotiating.
Students learn not only how to develop their own skills in these areas, but also how to recognize others’ personality types and the strengths and challenges associated with these types. They are then able to work with others in ways that leverage and build on others’ innate strengths, allowing project teams to work together more effectively and get projects done faster. In this way, students who earn the CCPM credential master the ability to create immense value for their clients, supervisors, co-workers, and organization. Learn more at cheetahcertifiedpm.com.
Note: this article reflects the viewpoint of the author, Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, Chief Cheetah and Founder of Cheetah Learning, and does not necessarily represent the views of PMIWDC. If you disagree with or object to the views expressed here, please let us know