Confidence doesn’t just follow success, it’s also an important driver behind achieving future outcomes. Project professionals who are confident in their abilities—or who at least believe in the capabilities of their broader team—are in the right mindset to think strategically, to accurately and effectively assess and address risks, and to move forward with actions that align with project success.
But what if your project team members don’t have that kind of confidence? Perhaps they don’t feel they have the skills or expertise necessary to deliver a project on time. Some haven’t ever had responsibility for large project budgets. Or a few may have been shaken by a past project failure. The value of knowing the team has what it takes to move an initiative to a successful completion is key to consistent results.
If your organization’s project leaders don’t yet have a strategy in place to help team members build (or rebuild) their confidence, consider the widespread consequences doubt and fear can inflict on your project team.
When individuals aren’t confident in their project management skills, they may be hesitant to take on complex, high-risk, or critical-path efforts. Though professionals will commonly push beyond their limits to develop new skills and expand their expertise, uneasiness about committing errors in a very visible project could make some members of your team unwilling to take the chance. You may see reduced engagement from these otherwise eager workers or even a refusal to be assigned to particular projects if the stakes are high. Unfortunately, strategically important projects are where you’re likely to need all hands on deck and any pullback in participation could be a serious hit to your efforts.
If the fear that often accompanies shaky confidence has taken over your team, potentially manifesting in everything from general anxiety about poor project performance to worries that individuals will be viewed as unskilled or even incompetent, they might be reluctant to learn new techniques, adopt new processes, or experience new things. It’s an unfortunate paradox, where project professionals who lack confidence tend to avoid exposure to unfamiliar situations. This leaves them with few opportunities to build their knowledge and skillsets or to gain experience where they need it most. It only further diminishes their confidence and creates more roadblocks to success when must-win projects come along.
Insecure team members might be slow to delegate or reassign activities that are within their comfort zone for fear the resulting hole will be filled with something they can’t achieve. This creates a two-prong problem that only compounds the original issue. First, workloads are likely to continue expanding even though team members refrain from handing off those tasks that could be done by someone else. In addition, by not delegating, the other members of the group—who may be new to the team or new to project management in general—don’t get the opportunity to broaden their own skills, even if they’re willing to.
A lack of confidence can make people second guess themselves and this tendency increases as the project risk level goes up. If the doubts aren’t properly weighed against reason and reality—a particularly troublesome situation when the group doesn’t yet have the acumen to apply relevant experience as part of their judgements—then your team could develop a reputation for making bad decisions. Without the confidence to tackle situations that are new to them, team members could fall back on choices they perceive to be safe. Those seemingly low-risk decisions may not always be the right move for the project or the organization, and could create more problems than they solve.