What is the Best Power of the Project Manager?


By Fahad Usmani, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, contributing blogger

When I was studying this topic, I saw everywhere that the expert and reward powers are the best powers for the project manager, and all sources were pointing this out. However, I was not convinced, so I researched it and gave a lot of thought to this topic to find the correct answer.

Now I have passed my PMP exam and own a blog for PMP aspirants; therefore, I’m going to post my understanding and view on this topic in this blog post.

Please note that the views expressed in this blog post are my own. You may or may not agree with it; however, I would appreciate it if you share your thoughts through the comments section.

Okay, let’s get started.

You can define power as an influence on stakeholder to make a favorable decision. You can influence stakeholders in many ways: for example you can force them, or you can attract them with your charisma, etc.

According to the PMI, a project manager can use five types of power to influence his team members. These powers are as follows:

Formal or Legitimate Power
Reward Power
Punishment Power
Expert Power
Referent Power

These powers can be grouped into two categories: positional powers and personal power.

Formal power, reward power, and punishment powers are examples of positional power because you get this power just by being a project manager. In other words, the position of the project manager has this power in itself.

Expert and referent powers are examples of personal power.

I agree with everybody that reward and expert powers are the better powers for a project manager

But do you really think that these two powers are equally good?

Or do they really share the top position together?

I don’t think so.

Let me explain this to you in detail. I believe that after going through this blog post you will also have the same thoughts as I do.

Now I am going to give you a short brief about all types of power, and then we will discuss which power is the best for a project manager.

Formal or Legitimate Power

Since you are a project manager, you have this power. This power comes with the position itself; therefore, this power is also known as positional power. Team members will obey orders from you because they know that you have the formal power and authority to issue orders.


This type of power is seen in a projectized organization or in a strong matrix type of organization. In these types of organizations, you are in charge of your team and decide their performance appraisal, work assignments, etc.

However, if you are working in a functional organization or in a weak matrix organization, you will lack this power. In this case you may have to use your soft skills to get the job done.

Reward Power

A reward is something people desire. Reward power is, up to some extent, tied to the formal power of the project manager. You will get the team’s support because team members think that you are capable of rewarding them if they perform well. Rewards may be monetary (salary increase, bonus, promotion, etc.) or non-monetary (recognition, professional development, appreciation letter, day off, etc.).

Giving monetary rewards is often difficult, because sometimes you may be working in a functional organization or the budget is tight. Therefore most of the time rewards are non-monetary such as recognition, training recommendation, or a valuable assignment.

A reward should be achievable and it should not be a win-lose type of reward. Reward criteria should be fair, clear and achievable for all.

Reward power is a positional power, and you can have this power if you are working in a projectized or in a strong matrix organization. Although you can have reward power in a functional or a weak matrix organization as well, here you can offer your team members only non-monetary benefits.

Punishment Power

Nobody wants to get punished. Punishment power comes with the formal power of the project manager. Here, you will get your team’s obedience because the team members are afraid that if they don’t perform their duties efficiently, they may get punished. Here you use fear as a primary tool to get work done. Punishment power is also known as coercive power.

You will have this type of power if you are working in a projectized or in a strong matrix organization.

You will use this power when a team member is not performing well or is creating problems that affect your project objectives.

Expert Power

Being a subject matter expert itself is a great influential power. Team members will respect you for your technical expertise on the subject. They trust you because they think that you are an expert, have special knowledge on the matter, and know how to handle issues.

Expert power is considered to be a positive power that influences team members to follow your lead. If you do not possess expert knowledge then it would be difficult for you to gain respect from the team members.

Referent Power

If you are well associated with higher management, or have connections with some influential people in the organisation, you are said to possess referent power. Since you are connected with influential people, your team members want to connect with you as well.

This power may help you when you are a new project manager in the initial stages of the project when you may not have any other power except formal power; however, you may be perceived as being closely aligned with the top management.

My View

You can have any or all of the powers explained here, but to successfully complete the project you need to have at least three of these powers; i.e. formal power, reward power, and expert power.

Formal power establishes your authority as the lead of the project, reward power helps you motivate the team members, and expert power will benefit you to gain trust and support for your decisions from the team members.

Punishment power works in some cases, and the effects of referent power are not long lasting.

Now, again, which is the best power for the project manager?

Let’s revisit some key points and see in which case the team member will be more motivated and committed to performance:

A willing team member will do a better job, and the motivation of willingness to work comes from reward power. Team members will be willing to work more efficiently if they know that they are going to be rewarded for their performance.
With formal and punishment power, team members are beaten into submission, which I don’t think can be a cause of motivation for the team members.

With expert power, though, team members respect you and they trust your decisions, but this trust is not going to translate into motivation. Expert power can be a hygienic factor but can never be a motivating factor. An increase in performance and efficiency cannot be found without a motivating factor.

I accept the importance of expert power; however, I strongly believe that reward power is better than expert power to motivate the team members and get better performance.


It is important for you to know all types of power that a project manager can use in different situations and in different types of organizations. Your management style will depend on the situation and the type of organization you are working in. If you are working in a projectized organization, you will have punishment and reward power. However, if you are working in a functional type of organization, you will have to depend on expert power and your soft skills.

Please note: If you are preparing for the PMP certification exam, keep in mind that expert power and reward power are equally best as per the PMI, and if you get any question on this topic then you can select any of two (and of course pray that both do not come up as an option).

Fahad Usmani

Fahad Usmani, PMP®, PMI-RMP®, is founder ofPMstudycircle.com and the author of A2Z of PMP Certification Exam. He has over 10 years of global portfolio management experience, specializing in leading complex corporate projects. He currently serves as an Inspection Engineer in Kuwait and facilitates project management training programs throughout the Middle-East.

PM Center of Excellence at Bellevue University


– By Dr. Emad Rahim, PMP, COMP, Kotouc Endowed Chair

We have been very busy the last few months getting our Project Management Center of Excellence up and running. There are only a handful of Universities that have established a Center of Excellence dedicated to the study and practice of project management. We wanted to get everything in place before launching so that we help raise the bar for other Centers across the country.  Within a short period of time we have been able to receive a lot of good press and interest in our work at Bellevue University and the Project Management Center of Excellence.

The Center for Project Management is developing the next generation of project leaders, providing the resources and mindset for managing complex organizational projects on a global scale.

The Center within Bellevue University’s College of Science and Technology is dedicated to performing research and advocacy, and providing education with respect to the profession and education of project management.

Below are some highlights that we are proud to share with you:

Project Eye Magazine (pg. 33-35): http://bit.ly/1RFu01j

Trends in PM Education: http://bit.ly/1KnlcsL

PM Career Path in Thought Leadership: http://bit.ly/1KF3rQp

How to Avoid Failure on IT Projects: http://bit.ly/1Q7rGeE


Dispelling Myths around Project Sponsorship

Dispelling Myths around Project Sponsorship

– by Radhia Benalia, PhDc, PMP, Certified Green Belt

Radhia Benalia
Radhia Benalia

Radhia Benalia is a pracademic. In addition to filling a leading position in a regional project management training and consultancy organization in the Middle-East, she is preparing a PhD thesis on Success Factors for Senior/Top Managers in Projects. Ms. Benalia has also a proven track record in leadership development and communication skills training. She worked extensively with the government and in NGOs or semi-government organizations, specifically in Canada. Radhia was nominated as candidate for party in office in 2009 Parliament elections in British Columbia, Canada. With CMCS, she has led the curriculum development of the entire project management post graduate diploma with the American University of Beirut for several tracks and has contributed to several project management and change management methodology development endeavors.

Connect with her on Twitter: @RadhiaBenalia

In times where organizations are starting to question a lot of what they do and strive to find ways to improve their chances for sustainability and growth, there is increasing scrutiny on people holding leading positions. Forward-thinking organizations are willing to invest in their people, involving even those filling some of the highest roles, but it is still not very common to see companies training their executive managers or senior managers on the role of a project sponsor.

Who exactly is the sponsor?

The sponsor is the person or group performing the functions of providing the Project or Program Manager’s authority, making investment decisions and providing direction- PMI Research Conference, 2012.

The senior manager directing a project is not always called a sponsor. In fact, according to OGC, they are the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO): “The single individual with overall responsibility for ensuring that a project or program meets its objectives and delivers the project benefits.” OGC, 2007.

Even if project-bound, the role of a project sponsor is a leading role and the behavior of project sponsors can have a direct impact on the success of the project. In fact, Project Management Institute (PMI) research has shown that having actively engaged executive sponsors is the top driver of project success. – PMI Pulse of Profession (2014). Academic research seems to confirm. According to Liu et al. (2013), top management support is one of the most critical factors for successful completion of projects.

Unfortunately, a large number of organizations are yet to prepare their managers and executives for the role of a project sponsor. The same organizations who invest intensively in training their project managers rarely invest in project sponsors or project-sponsors-to-be for several reasons:

1- People often assume that executives know it all and do not see a need for training.

2- Senior managers and executives are not always willing to go back to “school” and often display a negative attitude towards being taught what to do when sponsoring a project.

3- The project manager is seen as the ultimate point of accountability and assigning a project sponsor is sometimes seen as a mere formality.

All in all, and in stark contrast with the awareness that people have gained towards the role of project manager, the role of a sponsor is a topic that many are still grappling with.

Dispelling the Myths

In order to better understand the role of a sponsor, let us first dispel some myths:

Myth 1: Sponsorship equals Executive Management.

In fact, not every executive can be a sponsor. The profile of a good project sponsor needs to include the following:

1- He/she needs to have a profound understanding of the strategy of the business and be able to clearly convey it to the project manager and to the project team, whether the project is a “stand-alone” project or a PMO implementation.

2- The sponsor needs to act as the proxy of the business: He/she ensures that the project is aligned with the business strategy, and that it will indeed bring value to the organization. Then, he/she needs to rally the troops around the vision of the project.

3- This person can bring the funds and/or resources to the project, and can assume a political role where he/she would be protecting the project manager and the project team from negative organizational influences.

4- The sponsor needs to be ready to make difficult decisions, such as to cancel the project if it is found that the project’s outcomes will no longer bring added value to the business.

5- He/she needs to be an excellent communicator with a knack for simplifying and clarifying complex concepts. At initiation of the project, for instance, it is paramount that the project sponsor relays clearly to the PM and project team the exact scope and objectives of the project and ensures that they all have had their questions answered and that the work they do later remains within scope.

Myth 2: Sponsors need not to be trained on project management know-how. “After all, they make decisions at the organizational level”.

It is essential for the project sponsor to understand how a project works. He/she is not required to know as much as the project manager would on tactical project management concepts, but they both need to be able to speak the same language. It can be very frustrating for the PM to report to an executive that does not understand the significance of the indices or the risk register, for instance.
On the other hand, it can sometimes become a little risky when the project sponsor has profound knowledge of project management practices. This is because some would tend to micro-manage the PM or hijack his/her role. A project sponsor needs to let the project manager be in charge while providing the required support.

Myth 3: The higher the sponsor in the organization, the better. Always!
Not really. It can be very helpful to have a powerful project sponsor, especially to navigate politics. However, an executive sponsor is not always as accessible as a project sponsor from middle-management, for example. One of the key factors to project success is frequent communication between PM and PS, and it requires consistent involvement of the PS.

Good communication implies clear expectations for both sides from the beginning. The PS and PM should work on making frequency, type, and how to of communications crystal clear. As ambiguity is often embedded in all types of projects, it helps a lot not to add to it by making exchanges and expectations ambiguous as well.

In addition, a good working relationship between the PS and PM helps alleviate a lot of the hurdles. Mutual trust and honest communication where the PM is not worried about sharing “bad” news with the PS is the type of context that helps contribute to project success. On the other hand, withholding timely information has proven to be detrimental to the completion of a variety of projects and programs.

Myth 4: If any coaching or mentoring is going to happen, it’s going to be the PS coaching the PM.

In fact, an ideal situation would be one where both coach each other. The PS can coach the PM in motivating the project team or preparing reports that the executives understand and react to promptly, whereas the PM can have a primary role in coaching the sponsor in being a project sponsor! Some PMs do that through an interview at the beginning of the project or by having the project sponsor review and approve a “handbook” for communications, expectations, and questions to be answered, all actually delineating both roles.

In conclusion, the role of a project sponsor requires both art and science. The sponsor or top manager should be a key contributor to the success of the project by ensuring that they are doing a number of things like asking the right questions, preparing clear answers, motivating the project team, setting clear KPIs and criteria, listening carefully, dealing with ambiguity, helping the PM accept ambiguity, and sharing information that will help complete the project successfully. Truth is all of this requires a combination of “hard” and “soft” skills that are not always found in senior managers.

Healthcare and Project Management with Dr. Darrell Burrell

PM Center Insider

Interview with Dr. Darrell Burrell, Global Peacemaker Fellow and Professor/Director at Florida Institute of Technology

By Dr. Emad Rahim, Kotouc Endowed Chair of PM Center of Excellence

Dr. Darrell Norman Burrell
Dr. Darrell Norman Burrell

Dr. Darrell Norman Burrell is a Certified Diversity Professional, a Certified Executive Coach, and a Certified Telemedicine Administrator. He is a full time faculty member at the Florida Institute of Technology and Global Peacemaker Fellow at the Claremont Lincoln University.

Dr. Burrell has a doctoral degree in Health Education in Environmental Public Health, and Executive Leadership Coaching from A.T. Still University of Health Sciences. He has graduated with multiple degrees (2) in Human Resources Management and Management from National Louis University and a third graduate degree in Sales and Marketing Management from Prescott College. He also has a 4th graduate degree in Higher Education Administration from The George Washington University.

He has over 18 years of combined experience in leadership development, health care, diversity, marketing, and human resources management and organizational development experience. He can be reached at: dburrell@fit.edu and is also listed on LinkedIn as “Dr. Darrell Norman Burrell”.

  1. You specialize in healthcare administration and policy. Can you tell us how project management skills are important in the healthcare sector?

The US Affordable Care Act and health consumers are driving the need to use project management approaches to improve health care delivery and health care outcomes. When understanding how important project management skills are in health care, consider how humanitarian relief professionals provide medical assistance to those in need or even consider how professionals engage public health threats like Ebola. Many community public health programs engage in activities that are focused on utilizing health-oriented interventions and education programs to serve populations in need. The use of project management skills has become more important to ensure that resources are used properly and projects are managed effectively. The most common project management concepts that are applicable in public health, health education, and health administration include:

  • Assembling a team of assorted subject matter experts from clinical and administrative backgrounds to focus on defining project objectives.
  • These objectives need to be specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and time limited.
  • Engaging in research, data collection, gap analyses, and data evaluation to create effective strategic project plans and performance measures that set priorities for improvement.
  • The identification of stakeholders who are those who will be affected by the project, who will contribute needed resources, and who will benefit from the outcomes of the project.
  • Determine scope, resources and major tasks–Identify what needs to be done to meet each objective and divide tasks amongst team members.
  • Budget and resources estimation based on the size and scope of the project.
  • Implementation of the plan.
  • The development of communication methods and protocol to share project progresses, obstacles, successes, and failures to critical stakeholders.
  • Risk management activities.
  • Evaluation of the project and results.
  • Project closeout.

Project management skills are critical for those in health care with strictly clinical backgrounds because their academic training is often absent of project management fundamentals.

  1. What other healthcare fields do people use project management?

Health administration, public health, clinical health research, health promotion, health education, medical device manufacturing. Also, health services is focusing a lot of attention on analytics. Hospitals and other healthcare service organizations are paying close attention to big data. Project managers already do a lot of analytics and now even offer a certification in business analysis.

  1. Can you give us some examples of industries outside of healthcare that are going more ‘project-ized’ in their business?

Higher education – especially as it relates to curriculum development, which really requires a project management approach to the development of learning objectives and content.

  1. You have written and conducted extensively on the topic of leadership and diversity management. Where do you see the profession of project management going in the next 5 years and how should students prepare themselves?

I see areas like project management and quality project management as becoming growing academic disciplines where you can obtain degrees from the undergraduate level all the way up to the doctoral level. Universities like Bellevue University, Florida Institute of Technology, The George Washington University now offer graduate degrees in project management. Several universities in Australia including The University of New South Wales (UNSW) are even offering doctorates in project management. Students really need to realize the importance of specializing on the graduate level. Specialized degrees in areas like project management allow graduates to stand out in ways that a general MBA degree does not. Professionals and students should also realize the development of solid project management skills are transferable and valuable in any professional field, not just healthcare, or construction, or manufacturing.

  1. Do you think a person without a traditional project management background can get into the profession? Can you provide some guidance?

Getting a Project Management certification from the Project Management Institute is very important. Other critical certifications include getting a Six Sigma certificate which is offered by universities like Villanova and the National Graduate School of Quality Management.

Cyber Security and Project Management with Dr. Maurice Dawson

PM Center Insider

Interview with Dr. Maurice Dawson, Fulbright Fellow and Professor at University of Missouri-St. Louis

By Dr. Emad Rahim, Kotouc Endowed Chair of PM Center of Excellence

Dr. Maurice Dawson
Dr. Maurice Dawson

Maurice Dawson serves as an Assistant Professor of Information Systems at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Visiting Assistant Professor (Honorary) of Industrial and Systems Engineering at The University of Tennessee Space Institute, and Fulbright. Dawson is recognized as an Information Assurance System Architect and Engineer by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Research focus area is cyber security, systems security engineering, open source software (OSS), mobile security, and engineering management.

  1. You specialize in cyber security. Can you tell us how project management skills are important in the field of cyber security?

Dealing with cyber security in the life cycle means there is a form of project management occurring.  This could be at the systems or software level but a project or product is still being managed.  This means a lead needs to understand the concepts of scope, schedule, and cost.  One of the major problems has been connecting the goals of Chief Information Officer (CIO) to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).  Project management skills allow me to deliver a product or project to my customer within budget, in scope, and within schedule.

  1. What other technology fields do people use project management?

Project management can be found in the following technology fields: cyber security, software engineering, systems engineering, Business Intelligence (BI), and acquisition management. Project management is embedded in many technology disciplines, as many science and engineering life cycles have a form of project management contained within.  The flow is project management, systems engineering, and then software engineering, in terms of development hierarchy.

  1. Can you give us some examples of industries that are going more ‘project-ized’ in their business?

For any Department of Defense (DoD) project it must follow the acquisition life cycle.  The DoD and the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) required the DoD to establish a process through which persons in the acquisition workforce would be recognized as having achieved professional status. Certification is the procedure through which a military service or DoD Component determines that an employee meets the education, training, and experience standards required for a career level in any acquisition, technology, and logistics career field.  In the civilian sector, to manage costs, schedule, and scope project management has become essential.  When obtaining customer confidence – being process-oriented is needed.  The Capability Maturity Model Index (CMMI) is a process improvement training and appraisal program and service administered and marketed by Carnegie Mellon University, and required by many DoD and U.S. Government contracts.  In software driven projects, CMMI is required, which has a project focus.  This could mean any items such as aviation management software, software to control tanks, and any other software, as the requirement is CMMI Level 3 for many organizations to meet.

  1. You have written and conducted extensively on the topic of project management, where do you see the profession going in the next 5 years?

In the next years I see cyber security being woven more into the project life cycle.  In previous years cyber security was an afterthought which resulted in significant costs to fix defects or vulnerabilities in code.  I foresee project management methodologies like a bag of tools for a mechanic.  One project will select agile while another is using a modified water fall method.

  1. Can a person without a traditional project management background get into the profession? Can you provide some guidance?
    A person who doesn’t have a traditional project management background has more likely participated in part of the life cycle.  This means in the stage of testing, integration, documentation, or even maintenance, participation may have taken place.  An individual simply needs to expose themselves to more of the project life cycle.  This can be playing an active role in more parts of the life cycle and taking on responsibilities such as a Cost Account Manager (CAM).  Managing small budgets is a method to become more involved in the financials of the project.  This will allow an individual to understand the scope, schedule, and cost further.

Project-Driven Technology in Organizations with Dr. Robert McGrath

PM Center Insider

Interview with Dr. Robert McGrath, PMI Author and PM Center Faculty

By Dr. Emad Rahim, Kotouc Endowed Chair of PM Center of Excellence

Robert McGrathPMCenterDr. Robert N. McGrath began his career after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy, and served five years as an Aircraft Maintenance and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer. Afterwards he worked in project-driven aerospace environments as a logistician, engineer and manager for Texas Instruments, General Electric Aircraft Engines, and the Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Company. When the Cold War ended and with several Master’s Degrees accomplished, he completed a Ph.D. in Business Administration at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. As a full-time academic, his work has focused mainly in the areas of strategic management, project management, technology and innovation management, operations management, and logistics. He is author of the book Project-Driven Technology Strategy: Knowledge Technology published by PMI.

  1. You specialize in teaching Project-Driven Technology. Can you tell us how technical skills are important to project management?

It’s more correct to say that I specialize in Technology and Innovation Management (TIM), which is a track in the Academy of Management, ensconced in my Ph.D. in Strategic Management.  However, I have come to realize that the interface between this strategic concern, and the “operations” level of management, goes right through the Project Manager.  That is, it seems that the lowest level of expertise in TIM lies at barely discussing the hands-on management of projects, while inversely, the typical PM can barely articulate what Strategic Management is all about at that person’s ‘upper level’ without resorting to vacuous and poorly understood buzzwords like “competitive advantage.”  The strategist’s floor is the PM’s ceiling, then, and this is a ceiling that must be dissolved.  So along with the PMP and prior industry experience, nowadays, I have made this interface my specialty, so to speak

  1. What makes project management technology unique? Could you provide some examples in when being current in PM technology is important on projects?

As noted, my focus is not about Project Management technology per se, as much as the Management of Technology — any technology amongst the thousands that exist.  Here, of course, the dominant “process technology” is the PMBOK itself, a rather ‘soft’ technology in the normal vernacular, but fully compliant with the extant definitions of what technology is – human competence, and organizational capability.  Anyway, the PMBOK is an ANSI standard, the ‘spec’ of this profession so to speak, which is the smoking gun of this esoteric point.

  1. If technology competency is so important for project managers why do you think so many companies overlook it when assigning a person to lead a project?

Well, here definitions really do become important.  If we are speaking of engineering-style, education/training-based degrees and certifications as technology competencies, then I’m sure this statement would vary in application tremendously across industries first and foremost.  This would be especially true in industries that define themselves using technology boundaries in the first place, which has important limitations when it comes to managing innovation in the age of technological convergence amongst and across industries.  One of my favorite expressions to hate is “THE Technology Industry,” which simply does not exist in any clearly-bounded fashion that is managerially useful except in the most casual sense.  There are thousands of technologies and hundreds of ‘technology industries’ – not one of each!  So to answer the question, one really needs to identify which technology competency(ies) are at issue in the given industrial context.

  1. You have written and conducted extensively on the topic of strategy and technology, where do you see the project management profession going in the next 5 years?

“Follow the money.”  This applies especially to large capital projects, whether they be privately funded or publicly (or hybrid forms).  US companies continue to hold back massive, massive amounts of Retained Earnings, waiting for the day when capital projects can be planned in an atmosphere of acceptable balances between overall (Investment) Risk and ROI.  Right now, companies are getting so tired of waiting for real recovery, they have switched growth strategies from internal development through capital projects, to Mergers and Acquisitions.  In other words in order to grow, which is an incessant corporate demand, the project-level “numbers” just aren’t there yet to foster “Internal Corporate Entrepreneurship” economy-wide, leaving the one other traditional option — to simply merge with and/or acquire other firms.  The year 2015 looks to be a record-setting year in M&A, especially in Healthcare.   But this is not so good.  The history of M&A fads is very bad in the long run.  The “synergy” unicorn is just that in many errant M&A schemes, that wastes billions in real wealth.

  1. Can a person without a traditional project management background get into the profession? Can you provide some guidance?

I’m not sure what a “traditional project management background” is!  More to the point, I don’t know where the boundary lies between PM being a true profession, and a job.  Some people get dragged into “management” almost against their will, almost as if they will accept the role only because they know what’s good for their careers.  Turning down a promotion, even an informal one, can be a disaster.   The term sometimes heard is the “Accidental Project Manager.”  I think we all know many practicing managers, usually low-level managers, that hold contemptuous views about “management stuff” being so much “common sense.”  Until they run into that crisis where lack of a key people skill, typically, shocks them into adopting a more mature and professional attitude.  The moral of this story?  Get enthused about the full range of human skills demanded of any professional manager early, accept these accountabilities fully, and let nature take its course.  Executives are ALWAYS looking for the real pros, not the cynics.  And sooner or later, get trained or educated.

Social Capital Management for Aspiring PMs

PM Center Insider

By Emad Rahim, Kotouc Endowed Chair of PM Center of Excellence

Emad RahimDr. Emad Rahim, PMP®, OMCP®, serves as the Endowed Chair of the Project Management Center of Excellence and Associate Professor for the College of Science and Technology at Bellevue University. He has earned fellowships at Fulbright, Beyster Institute, Kauffman Foundation and the Jack Welch Management Institute, and has been invited to serve as a Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University, Oklahoma State University and Syracuse University.  He co-authored Foundations of Social Responsibility and Its Application to Change, Leading Through Diversity: Transforming Managers Into Effective Leaders, and The 4-Tions: Your Guide to Developing Successful Job Search Strategies. Emad has also contributed columns for Forbes, CEO Magazine, IntelligentHQ and TweakYourBiz.com, and has been featured in the Huffington Post, US News & World Report and NY Post.

Connect with him on Twitter @DrEmadRahim

Project managers are nothing without a fine-tune team and a rolodex of social capital that is committed to your project success. Who are you going to call when you need project resources, solutions for complex problems, expert advice, and additional workforce or when you are dealing with a crises that no one of your team knows how to handle it?

“Social capital” means fame, goodwill, reputation or recognition you have amassed because of your work, achievements, professional network or social activism.

Traditionally, social capital meant goodwill a project manager – or any individual, for that matter – has gathered from various segments of professional networks and society. But in the Internet age, social capital also includes goodwill and reputation a project manager garners from social media, or more generally, from every digital platform.

If you are an aspiring project manager, here are 10 easy yet effective ways to build social capital before embarking on your project management career.

  1. Have Not One, But Several Social Media Pages

To build social capital, you need to be social. We are not talking about just saying ‘hello’ here and there, vanishing for a few weeks, and then coming back when you feel like it.

You should formulate an effective social media strategy in which you open – and maintain – pages on more than one platform.

At a minimum, you must have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter…and Pinterest if you have time.

  1. Engage Your Friends and Followers

Once you open the pages, maintain them. Post relevant content, information that improves people’s lives, entertains them or educates them.

If friends and followers see you posting value-adding information, you could boost your social capital over time, strengthening your moral authority over them.

The idea is to provide good information consistently, so people can see you as a trusted of education and information they can rely on.

  1. Follow What Is Going on in Your Area and Industry

Educating others is good, but educating yourself is better. Familiarize yourself with your niche, your industry or whatever interests you.

Learn as much as you can, read and find out the key trends that are shaping your industry. That kind of research will pay off exponentially later on when you embark on your business career, because you would know exactly what works, what does not, and what rivals are doing.

  1. Cultivate the Company of Prominent People

Don’t waste your time with the wrong people – online and offline. ‘Show me your friends, and I will tell you who you are,’ says the axiom.

The idea here is to amass social goodwill by forming solid ties with prominent personalities in your niche.

That way, you can indirectly benefit from their social capital whenever they mention your name or refer you to their friends and business contacts. Don’t reinvent the wheel; just copy what the best are doing, and you could be on your way to business stardom, too.

  1. Surround Yourself With Other Project Managers

Surround yourself with other project managers if you want to simultaneously gather social capital and boost your business aspirations.

 The good thing is, when you hang out with other similarly minded people, their expertise and talent spread on you, thus expanding your own knowledge. You, too, share your inner potential with them, thus completing the virtuous circle you can use one day to advance your respective businesses.

The idea of crowdsourcing is similar, although it applies to a large group of people – a crowd, that is.

  1. Convince Others You Are the Best – or One of Them

You can quickly garner social goodwill if you consistently produce top-quality content, share good ideas with followers, and are seen as a rising star because you work with prominent people.

To convince others you are the best – or one of the best – you need to work, work and work. No talk – just work. Prove your excellence through hard work, and before you know it, others will give you the accolades you need and want.

  1. Do Good Offline

Doing good is excellent online – but so it is offline. Doing good is good for your karma, which is not a bad thing when it comes to social capital.

Accumulated much goodwill through volunteering and charitable activism can also translate into online recognition, because the people and organizations you helped also have an online presence – and they would be more than happy to return the favor you initially granted them.

  1. Establish Thought Leadership

Establish thought leadership by writing a book, giving a speech, penning several blog articles or mentoring others.

All these activities serve to set  you up as an expert in whatever field you choose, as long as it fits nicely with your future business aspirations.

Remember that people generally ascribe expertise and intellectual authority to someone who writes a book or delivers a comprehensive speech or presentation on a topic – and does so not just once, but several times.

  1. Think About Project Management, Too

As an aspiring project manager, you are probably thinking about business growth and the ROI of your project success only. That is okay, but don’t forget socially conscious projects that you can support.

This world also needs smart, competent and poised people who want to improve the lives of millions through social activism.

Earlier, we said you can build social capital by doing some good offline. Here we are saying you could actually take the path of social project management altogether, building an organization – nonprofit or business – focused on social welfare. I volunteer on several nonprofit and community projects every year. This helps me stay connected, grounded and expand my network outside of the workplace.

  1. Let Others Shine

Humility is the gateway to stardom, so let others shine whenever you can. As much as possible, mention others in your social posts, blog articles and other messages.

Shedding light on other people’s work will benefit you, not only in terms of social goodwill, but also in terms of personal connections you could use offline to jumpstart your business.

Final Word

As an aspiring project manager, you should cultivate your relationships offline and online, at all times, and wherever possible. Always provide relevant and value-added content, and your peers and followers gradually will elevate your status in the industry. This also rings true for established project managers that are seeking to grow their social capital.

Last but not least, don’t forget also to put the limelight on others – they will return the favor in due course.