By Elisabeth Goodman, 22nd May 2021
“If you don’t try it, you’ll never know” is a message that Melanie Boyle, VP of Project Management and Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM), learnt early in life from the elder sister of a schoolfriend.
Chance remarks like these can have a powerful impact on our attitudes, beliefs and self-confidence. As Stephen Joseph (2016 p.6) reminds us, we have “potentials inherent in our nature”. Our internal narrative, and how we choose to interact with those around us will influence how we realise that potential.
Michelle Ware, Head of Blended Learning at OBRIZUM Group and I had the pleasure of interviewing Melanie and hearing about the elements that have shaped her career so far.
Project Management is not one of the highest profile activities in small or larger Life Science organisations, where the pressure is on to discover and develop innovative solutions to patient, scientific and technological challenges and questions.
Yet Project Management, like other support services such as HR, finance, IT, can make a significant difference to the efficiency and effectiveness with which people use their expertise, time and other company resources to meet stakeholders’ expectations. Having self-confidence, being visible, and establishing your credibility will facilitate making this kind of impact in your organisation.
Taking a pragmatic approach
As Melanie has learnt, the success of activities like hers comes from learning and becoming secure in the knowledge and language of her craft, and in applying it, in a pragmatic way, to what the organisation is receptive to and needs. A small biotech does not need the same level of sophisticated plans as a an organisation designing and delivering complex engineering plants. But it does need some consistency in how it goes about its projects, for example to facilitate co-ordination of resources the transfer of learnings between projects.
Having the learning and development to be able to speak up and add value in a pragmatic way is one source of credibility. The other is working on your visibility: finding ways to get to know, and be known by those around you.
Recognising and developing your network
As Melanie points out in the interview, the people we work with and generally interact with in the course of our work are our natural network. We can expand that network, and enhance our visibility, by volunteering to get involved in cross-functional activities, as well as by taking the time to have casual conversations during the course of our working day. (Doing the latter has been a lot more difficult during lockdown, but it might still possible to look for and instigate such casual conversations even if we are working remotely, or if our shifts on location don’t always coincide.)
Widening our network will give us new insights that might inform suggestions that we make in our work. It could also help us to create allies and advocates to support our suggestions, and to enhance our credibility with others in this and future roles.
Developing allies and advocates
There is a lovely article by Leslie John (2021) in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review, full of practical tips on how we can promote ourselves most effectively.
One of the insights in the article is that if we are too active in promoting ourselves we might be seen as braggarts. However, if our allies / advocates promote us then other people are more likely to be receptive to that, and, incidentally, will also think well of the people who are doing the promoting!
Other approaches for realising our potential
I had the opportunity yesterday to engage with other professionals in the project management space, by speaking at an APM webinar on “Unlocking your potential as a project manager in the life science and pharma sector”. I asked delegates to consider what needed to happen for them to be at their best. Themes that emerged included:
- work / life balance
- efficiency, effectiveness and engagement
- having a clearly defined remit
- obtaining respect
There may be a common thread here around being clear about what we need and want, and then finding ways to make that happen for ourselves, and through our engagement with others. I would say there is a connection here too with self-confidence, visibility and credibility!
Incidentally, I had an enjoyable time exploring some of these themes further with the delegates, using resources that I typically use in my one-to-one and group coaching and training.
What role have self-confidence, visibility and credibility played in your life and in your ability to realise your potential?
What else have you done, or could you do to help you in this space?
Goodman, E. (2021, May). One step towards realising our potential – Episode 3. An interview with Melanie Boyle and Michelle Ware. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHa8aY-06rk
John, L. K. (2021). Savvy self-promotion. Harvard Business Review, May-June.
Joseph, S. (2016). Authentic. How to be yourself and why it matters. Piatkus.
About the author
Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through coaching, courses and workshops, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.
Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.
She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to exercise choice and realise their potential in the workplace by recognising their individual values and strengths. They explore such topics as enhancing their leadership / management, interpersonal and communication skills, and their ability to deal with uncertainty and change.
Elisabeth is accredited in Coaching (ACC – International Coaching Federation, PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching), Change Management, Lean Sigma, Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is also a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.
Elisabeth is also the founder of The Coaches’ Forum – an international community of interest for coaches to explore ideas and insights as an extension to their personal and professional development.