CELEBRATING WOMEN IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT 2020 SERIES
Location: Sussex, UK
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Elizabeth is a project manager and author based in the UK. She writes the award-winning blog, A Girl’s Guide to Project Management, and has written several project management books including Collaboration Tools for Project Managers. She has a new book out in 2020 on the topic of stakeholder engagement… watch this space! Elizabeth’s professional experience is in healthcare, IT and financial services.
What is your project management super power?
I like to think my project management superpower is helping other people feel calm about the work and the change we are implementing. I’ve often been told I look so organised and calm, which is often not at all how I feel inside! But if it gives off the right vibe to give the team confidence, then that’s a good thing.
How can gender diversity be improved in the project management profession?
I am seeing a number of my peers off-ramp because the challenge of having a life and a career.
I am noticing women drop out of the career path to senior jobs, I know women who are senior programme managers who have chosen to be unemployed rather than take the next career step up, and are currently looking for ‘average’ PM jobs.
There’s something interesting there about what it means to take an executive job, how you balance that with family, a commute, the menopause, childcare, elder care and the mental load that more often than not falls to women. And as we get older, we tend not to care so much about what other people think, and there’s a doubling down on what’s important – often that’s not a long commute to a stressful job with people you wouldn’t want to socialise with.
Options for stopping the talent drain out of businesses include all the usual stuff like remote working and flexi hours but also the culture change that come with appreciating what people bring to the workplace, making it possible to talk about caring responsibilities and menopause at work without feeling like you’re weird and a culture that respects people’s time, and is adequately resourced so you aren’t expecting senior managers to work 24/7.
As the profession evolves, what skills do you think will be key for future success?
I think diplomacy, listening, being able to assimilate a lot of information and filter through it, picking out the relevant parts, are going to be important – as they are today, but more so, because our world is getting more and more complex.
How do you recover from difficult situations?
Although I’m trying to do less moaning this year and more positive self-talk to stop myself bringing others down with me! I’ve always been quite transparent, but I need to be a little bit more restrained I fear! No, seriously, I’ve had plenty of difficult moments in my career, some easier to get over than others. I do appreciate the opportunity to talk things through with a mentor so I can reflect on why the situation happened and how I could do things differently next time.
What are your tips and techniques for conflict resolution?
I hate conflict so I’m probably not the best person to discuss conflict resolution! The strategy that has always worked for me is to apologise. I learned that a long time ago working a retail job while at college. Some of the customers were just horrible, but it’s very hard to argue with someone who is on the same side as you. Apologising and agreeing with people who are looking for a conflict seems to destabilise them somehow. Obviously you shouldn’t apologise if there is nothing to apologise for, but if you’re at fault, own it..
Which 3 words best describe why you enjoy being a project manager?
Variety, Community, Challenges.
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