CELEBRATING WOMEN IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT SERIES
Location: Durham, NC, USA
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Ruth Pearce is CEO of Project Motivator, an author and speaker, and a practicing project manager. Her 25 years’ experience is in a variety of industries including financial services, state government, and non-profits. Ruth has spent her career learning and experimenting to engage teams to make them happier and more productive and has published a book for project managers about team motivation. She is disrupting the traditional process focus of project managers by bringing awareness and facility with human factors into project management practices.
She is an energetic and engaging speaker with a track record of bringing the new science of positive psychology to the world of project management. She believes that the role of the project manager must change to become more pivotal in this time of accelerating change and disruption. A big part of that change is that it is no longer someone else’s challenge to build engagement and motivation. Project managers have the chance and obligation to change employee experiences in the workplace and to build better organizations for the future.
Ruth has conducted three independent studies into project managers, examining their role from the perspective of the project manager and from the perspective of non-project managers, exploring their relationship to engagement and the part that they play in team engagement and identifying their most prevalent – and least common – character strengths. In November 2018, her book Be a Project Motivator: Unlock the Secret of Strengths-Based Project Management was published by Berrett-Koehler. She is a contributor to PMWorld 360 and is a regular presenter at PMI chapters, and online project manager forums including Projectmanagement.com.
You can buy her book on Amazon (and other book sellers).
What I enjoy most about being a project manager is:
Seeing things that matter to people getting done and knowing that I was able to help make it happen. There are so many great ideas in the world, and at the same time, not so many people who can really rally the team to make them come to fruition. It really is a special feeling to see that change happen.
And then, of course, there are the teams. I love the dynamics of groups and teams, and it is a special honor to be given the opportunity to support a team of diverse minds working together to make change happen.
The three most important skills I use to successfully deliver projects are:
Strengths spotting – I really try to see the strengths of all my team members, acknowledge them and then see how to apply them in the team setting. More often than not, people have strengths that are outside of their official role on a project and I love spotting those and making space for them to use those strengths to good effect.
Active listening – really paying attention to what people are saying and not just assuming that I have understood their message but circling back to make sure what I heard is what they meant to say.
Powerful open questions – I learned in coaching that it is all too easy to close down a conversation with closed questions that make implicit assumptions about what the answer will be. To overcome our human tendency to biases, it is important to ask questions that are open and encourage mindfulness and contemplation in the answers.
I build and nurture my professional network by:
Ensuring that I always answer a message or email. If someone has taken the time to contact me, the least I can do is respond. Sometimes my response has to be “no thanks” or “I don’t have time” and at the same time, at least giving a response lets the other person know what to expect and where they stand.
When people ask for help I do my best to give it or find someone who can for all the same reasons as my first answer.
I try to share only content that is evidence-based so that my network knows it is reliable. There are some wonderful writers out there who offer great opinions based on their personal experience. I love reading them, but I rarely share them.
At the start of my career, the one thing I wish I had known is:
That I don’t have to tackle everything immediately. For example, I used to think that I had to answer emails as soon as I received them or return phone calls as soon as I was back at my desk. It took me a long time to realize two things. One is that it is rare that anything is THAT urgent. And I also give a much better response if I pause to think – sometimes overnight or for a day or two. All too often I would send a reply and then an hour later think of the perfect response or some other information I should have included. Better to wait the hour and send one email that is complete than pepper the other person with a stream of “oh and also” emails!
Women who have inspired me so far in my career journey are:
None of my inspirations have been project managers by profession – but they are all project managers in practice.
The first is my sister. She is six years younger than me and is an inspiration to me. She has worked in education all her career, and always takes on the most challenging jobs to help kids in the most difficult circumstances. And she is the mother of three children of her own who are all amazing. She project manages her life 24/7 and does an awesome job! She manifests her love, perseverance, creativity, humor and judgment in everything she does.
The second was an implementation lead at a software firm I used to deal with and she was amazing. She was always on top of what was going on, was always attentive and focused on calls and meetings, she was always kind and patient even when it seemed to the people around her as though the sky was falling, and she juggled work and home life with what appeared to be ease.
I admire any woman who pursues her dreams and does not let others hold her back. There are big names like Oprah, Michelle Obama and then there are the people that I meet in person in an ordinary day like the CNA at the hospital where my husband had surgery. She had a child on the autism spectrum and had been told he would not finish high school. When I met her she and he had just graduated college together. She had put them both through school working multiple jobs. She showed such perseverance, kindness and love and was as tough as nails!
There are many more!
The most valuable advice I have ever been given is:
“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
My father said this to me when I was preparing for my first big workplace presentation. That advice has served me well in so many situations. Sometimes being uncomfortable is right for the situation, and in my experience, those are situations when I learn the most because I am pushing beyond my comfort zone and am paying close attention.
My advice for women on finding success as a project manager is:
Don’t focus so much on process. Yes we need process, and we need to be organized, but projects are not completed by processes, they are – at least for now – completed by people. So put the bulk of your attention there. And remember the first person you want to engage is you!
Consider the wellbeing of your team and of yourself(!), think about the biases they bring, gently challenge their thinking to get the best out of them. Take time to get to know about them – what matters to them – and spot their strengths every day. Even the most frustrating colleague has strengths, and when we focus on those, it becomes easier to have difficult conversations and tackle sticky situations.
Hello amazing women of the project management world!
My observation after two decades of working in the project management industry is that our voices as women are simply not heard enough online in articles, podcasts, and across social media channels. Let’s change that!
- If you’re a woman working in project management, I want to hear from you! Submit your profile today to make sure to be included in this years event which has already begun.
- Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn to be inspired by daily posts as we celebrate all of these wonderful women in project management! Feel motivated by their stories, achievements and perspectives.
- Tell us how you feel and support other women by including #CelebratingWomenInProjectManagement in your social media posts.
- Join our FREE exclusive Celebrating Women in Project Management Facebook group – a new space for women in project management to come together and discuss ideas, give advice, provide support, and network with women from all over the globe.