Guideline Nine | Understand yourself

9. Understand yourself and your approach to working with people.

How a Project Manager or Leader thinks and feels about their own ability to manage/lead their project is integral to the project's ultimate success. Good interpersonal skills are one of the many competencies required for successful project management. These often go hand in hand with the ability to reflect on one's own behaviour.

The ability to clearly listen to others, empathise and use personal power or influence respectfully are key to a Project Manager/Leader’s ability to deal with people successfully on projects. Understanding yourself and your approach to working with others depends on having knowledge of your own values, beliefs, social and cultural biases, trigger issues and any family of origin biases. This is our own frame of reference.  Being able to ‘suspend’ these known judgements will enable you to listen to others at a deeper level.
What do we mean by ‘understanding yourself’? We, and those we interact with, tend to make judgements on behaviours we observe (visible part of an iceberg above the water) often without thinking about what could underpin those behaviours (what lies under the iceberg in the water).

Why is understanding yourself so important?
How we act in, or react to, a situation is governed by how we think about that situation. At all times when we are conversing or interacting with others, we are being instructed by our own frame of reference. It is therefore useful to get to know your own frame of reference and how you could show this in your interaction with others.
How do I go about understanding myself better?
Take the time to reflect on your family of origin norms, values and beliefs. Reflect on what can make you angry and know what the deeper reasons could be for the anger. Know what can make you happy and know what the deeper reasons could be for the happy state. If it helps write down your values, beliefs, etc. or draw a picture of them. Listen to your ‘inner voice or chatter’. We all experience internal dialogue. Get to know what yours is saying to you. Attention to your inner voice will help you understand your frame of reference and biases. This process can be part of life-long learning about ‘self’.
The benefits of understanding yourself
Increasing your understanding of yourself brings many benefits. Knowledge of yourself gives you choice – the choice of how you want to act or react in different situations.  Overtly knowing your own biases, values and norms can often lead you to a greater understanding of others as you begin to recognise the differences between your own frame of reference and theirs. Knowing yourself also helps you to choose how you want to think, act and behave in relation to situations and other people. This gives you the ability to be more flexible with others, whether you are managing or leading them, or seeking their assistance.

In the box top right there are some wonderful resources to help you understand what drives you and your interaction with people and stategies that will help you deal with difficlut individuasl. You are strongly encouraged to look at these tools and try them out on yourself and reflect how you can handle difficult people/team members/stakeholders better.