Laura: You and I, I just love how we really see the world the same way and the way that a lot of our project managers and PMO see it with respect to, “Okay, all of this is great in theory, but now how do I put this in practice?” As we were talking about earlier. So what advice do you have for PMO leaders listening that are saying, “Great, okay, I definitely want to help out. How do I become a mentor and how do I mentor my team?” That’s different from managing them. So I’ve got to team of PMO leaders, or how does one take on a mentoring role for their teams?
Elizabeth: I think it’s about the quality of conversations that you have. You can do that even within a one to one meeting. So part of your role as a manager is to do the managing, which will be “What are you working on? How’s it going? What roadblocks do you have that I can help with as your manager?” All those kinds of almost transactional part of the role. Are the team doing what they need to be doing? Am I happy with outcomes? Are we hitting our value driven outputs for whatever we do as a PMO this month, whatever our priorities are. And then there’s a, “And how’s it going?” question, which is your segue into let’s have a more informal chat about how it’s going. “Tell me about working with so and so. Last month you said that you were having difficulties with that. Is that still the case? Anything? I can do to help you with, or do you want me to tell you about time where I have blah blah, blah, that might be useful for you.” And you can include in the same one-to-one meeting that you have with your team, but it’s, just in your head, taking off your, “I’m your manager, I’ve just signed off your holiday form. Yes, it’s fine for you to have two days off.” And then putting on your, “And what can I help you with? Where are you stuck?” And you could either take that into a very coaching conversation or you could take that into, actually this person just needs me to tell them five things that they could try and hopefully one of them will be useful. Or, “I know they’re about to work with that particular department and I’ve already worked with them.” Or I’m going to suggest they talk to somebody who’s already worked with them so that they are prepared for the personalities they’ll find within that team.
So I think you can do it. And I think if you start to label things as, now I’m going to be your mentor, it starts to make people feel uncomfortable. It would me, and I think that’s why, often, it is better for it not to be your line manager. You can still have those conversations as a line manager. But I think from a mentoring perspective, in my experience it works better if they, if you have someone else. Because you talked to your manager, but you might not want to talk to your manager about everything. So as the mentee, if you’ve got a challenge or if your challenge is your manager, you want someone a bit more impartial, a bit removed. Perhaps who understands the world of PMO and the challenges that you’re facing, but perhaps not somebody directly in your team or your direct line manager. So you could go a level, what I tend to do is look at my manager’s level, and think who else of his or her colleagues is approachable, models the behaviors I want to be like. Who do I think would have useful opportunities? Who could open doors for me? Who would be someone whose wisdom I would want to receive and respect. And then approach that person. So you’re going to your manager’s level, in the hierarchical structure of your organization, but not necessarily to your manager directly.