Presentation Recap: Becoming the Warrior

From the PMI Global Insights Blog by Cameron McGaughy, Kimberly Whitby, Heather McLarnon, Julie Ho, Laura Schofield, Michelle Brown

By: Dr. Jennifer Donahue Ph.D.

Whether it’s in-person or virtual, PMI events give you the right skills to complete amazing projects. In this blog, whether it be our Virtual Experience Series, PMI Training (formerly Seminars World) and our inaugural PMI® Global Summit 2022, experienced event presenters past, present and future from the entire PMI event family share their knowledge on a wide range of issues important to project managers.

Last month, I had the pleasure of presenting at the PMI Virtual Experience Series 2023: 15 June. This was a great event with featured speakers, exhibits and networking activities.  My presentation was “Becoming the Warrior: Strategies to Break Through and Achieve Your Goals and Dreams”.  During this talk, I focused on the fact that we all have passion-fueled dreams that may seem too bold or too risky.  We are continually challenged to meet goals, either the goals of our organization, or the goals we set in our personal life. However, we often feel that our goals and dreams are out of reach, that we are not ready, we don’t have the time, or maybe we’re just not good enough.

During my 45-minute session, I exposed the reasons why many of you are not moving forward.  We struggle with imposter syndrome, self-doubt, the fear of failing, and roadblocks.

I received a lot of great questions that I didn’t get a chance to cover, and my responses are below.

Question 1: The challenge is knowing when your fear is serving you well or hindering you.
I wholeheartedly agree with this. I think a little fear is always required.  That little bit of fear tells you that you are doing something extraordinary. You are breaking out of your comfort zone, you’re trying something new, or you’ve made a decision that could create a whole new life for you.  This little bit of fear is what counteracts your complacency and status quo.

I think of fear as both rational and irrational. Rational fears might be those times when you’re walking at night or in an unknown area and your “Spidey senses” start to tingle. It’s good to listen to this type of fear.

Then there are irrational fears. I spoke about my fear of hummingbirds. I know that this is absolutely, completely irrational in every single way. Hummingbirds do not attack people (according to Google). 

The key is to try to find the difference between the two types of fears. If you were embarking on a new journey, you may have a fear that you will not succeed. Use this type of fear to understand exactly where it originates from.  Develop safeguards you can put in place to ensure that you succeed.

Being afraid is OK, but not going after your goals and dreams because of that fear, is not OK.

Question 2: I’m curious how much toxic culture plays into this.
This is an important observation that I have not made before. We understand that we may have feelings of imposture syndrome and self-doubt, but adding a toxic culture will only complicate the situation.  Toxic cultures are characterized by unhealthy or negative work environments that might include open hostility, bullying or discrimination.

When we combine these imposter syndrome and toxic environments, it becomes easier to reinforce those negative beliefs we have about ourselves.  Toxic work cultures are often epitomized by unhealthy competitions, lack of support, bullying, harassment, and devaluing other people’s accomplishments. Working in a toxic work culture creates an even larger uphill battle to overcome our own imposter syndromes and self-doubt.

Question 3: We need to remember our TEAMS experience these emotions too so we must remember, speak life, and build people up… not validate the lies/fear people are struggling with internally.
This is absolutely the truth! As leaders it is our job to make sure that our teams are healthy.

I often discuss that good leadership starts with you and I know this may sound absolutely selfish.  As leaders we are told, “it’s not about you, it’s about your team.”  And while this is true, we must have ourselves “sorted out” before we go and effectively lead others.

Once done, that is when it’s imperative to make sure that we are observing our personnel and assisting them with their goals and aspirations.  We are all human. We all have issues that might not be readily apparent on the surface. Understand that others may be struggling and engage with your team to see where you can assist. Many times, just offering positive reinforcement may help others in ways that you might not understand.

I had a great time presenting, and the full presentation will be on demand through 31 January 2024. Visit PMI Virtual Experience Series 2023 for more details.