Self-Aware Project Manager: 4 Basic Steps to Improve.

Self-Aware Project Manager

Self-awareness is a great tool, helping you bounce back faster from any failure. With that in mind, here are 4 steps to become a more self-aware project manager.

“Knowing yourself” is probably the most underrated yet highly significant aspect of management at any level. A truly self-aware project manager would be highly attuned to their own behavior, emotions, and reactions. Self-awareness also keeps us humble so we can acknowledge what we have yet to know and understand the crucial attributes of our own personality.

That’s why the process of efficiently managing others would naturally start with managing oneself, and being self-aware is a vital prerequisite to do so. The most assured project managers perform well in testing times because they know their limitations, strengths, and weaknesses. In a time of crisis, they would be able to reflect and quickly work out a solution instead of going into a shell. In a way, it all comes down to leading yourself before attempting to guide anyone else.

This critical act of becoming “aware of yourself” needs serious work. You need to practice the discipline of self-awareness. It can be a bit of a challenge, but well worth the effort. Being self-aware could prove to be a great tool, helping you bounce back faster from any failure, big or small. With that in mind, here are four basic steps for becoming a more self-aware project manager.

1. Self-Awareness in Project Management: Understanding Who You Are

In an emergency, most hardworking managers try and assume all responsibility to improve the situation. They probably try and act like God to save the project. That’s a big mistake since this is an absolutely wrong approach to take. At the risk of sounding like a spiritual guru, here’s what you need to do. First, understand your limitations and the extent of your reach. A person who understands their strength and weakness is in a far better position to solve the problem as compared to someone who assumes themselves to be a superhero.

So you need to evaluate the inventory available and understand realities on the ground to keep the damage at a minimum. Do not worry, even if you end up looking a bit vulnerable to your team members or seniors. Just recognize your strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. Once you start gaining some control, try and take appropriate steps to turn the tide. Then move on to the next step for becoming a more self-aware project manager.

2. Reflective Learning: Finding Improvement Opportunities

Structured feedback is an important tool to recognize where you stand. Proper reflection on your emotional reactions to situations provides a perfect opportunity to grow your self-awareness. Having a qualified mentor to guide you through all this is essential. A coach or a mentor is going to help you understand where you went wrong. They’ll deep dive with you and advise what you could have done differently last time and what you could improve in the near future.

Since they have an excellent opportunity to add their perspective into the situation, a qualified mentor can help you take a step-by-step approach to a “better you.” You get a chance to learn and act wisely in the future.

3. Mindfulness and Reaction: A Self-Aware Project Manager’s Approach

You need to improve the ability to listen and react. As they say, first seek to understand and only then be understood. There is no need to rush things and jump to a response. Take a deep breath and give yourself sufficient time between stimulus and response.

This “extra pause” would also end up making the other party comfortable. It’s only fair that you give the other person a chance to respond and avoid any attempt to dominate the conversation all the time. If you’ve given yourself that extra pause, you can respond and assess how your message is being received. Just avoid reacting too fast to situations, and you’d immediately feel a sense of comfort in your conversations. This way, the inherent tension in most modern-day conversations can be significantly reduced by being mindful about your response. This is a dominant characteristic that separates high-quality self-aware project managers from the rest.

4. Perception Awareness: Understanding How Others View You

Understanding the multiple facets of how people perceive you as a person helps build self-awareness. Most of it comes down to you being curious about the impact you have on your team members and the environment in general.

Have a clear-cut conversation with your boss, a trusted coworker, or even your spouse trying to gather more insights about your behavior. You might have to approach this with a certain degree of openness (not defensiveness!) Once you have a fair amount of insights from multiple sources, try and find out if there are any gaps between what you thought about yourself, and how people end up thinking about you. Again, you might need a qualified mentor, coach, or an old, trusted friend to help you through this feedback.

The core idea here is to remove all biases about yourself and know the areas that need work so you can improve your overall personality, and especially communication. With time you’d gain the objectivity to understand your behavior from an independent point of view, which will further help you to modify your behavior for maximum impact.

Concluding Thoughts

Most modern-day project managers work under a tremendous amount of pressure. Even with an effective feedback mechanism available in your organization, there is a need for an individual to analyze themselves in an unbiased manner. That’s where the concept of self-awareness can help you become a more effective professional who handles daily challenges thoughtfully and effectively.

…and it does take courage. No matter how much experience you have, or where you’ve graduated from, improving your awareness can be discouraging. Asking these four questions would require you to be authentic, and sometimes it is going to be difficult. However, once you put all these insights into practice, you will be ecstatic to see the positive changes that happen for you.

So take the time to become self-aware and work on this part of yourself. Precious hours spent doing this seemingly arduous and somewhat philosophical task will almost assuredly help you in your journey to becoming a more impactful project manager. This is the right time to add another significant tool into your arsenal. Are you ready for the challenge?

This article was first published on Dzone