Margaret Meloni has more than 18 years of project management experience, she helps project management students and professionals in excelling at project management by coaching and making them handle different tough projects. Margaret has co-authored two project management publications “52 Ways To Break Into Project Management” and “101 Great Ways To Enhance Your Career”, she also manages her blog for serving the community of project management students and professionals by providing them with cutting-edge knowledge and skills. Margaret main focus has always remained toward creating a better workplace with human touch where success and peace go hand in hand. She runs a coaching organization Meloni Coaching solutions with the aim to help people build soft and technical project management skills so that people can be human at organizations. She is the core belief that being an authentic self at work helps individuals in reaching their maximum potential. She aims for developing a group of individuals who are successful and at peace with their authentic selves who bring respect, dignity, and compassion for others as well. She provides both sorts of training virtual and in person as well for making you the best project manager you can be.
TaskQue: First of all Margaret, we would like to know what really inspired you, in choosing project management and then coaching as a career path?
Margaret: Like many others, I became an accidental project manager. I fell into it. This is not always the best way to manage your career. But the truth is the concept of managing my career was not that familiar to me. I just tried to work hard and get ahead. I knew some type of leadership role was the way to accomplish a climb up the ladder.
The truth is I was inspired by a difficult career situation. One day I walked into an office and I walked out unemployed. At that point in my life, it was one of the most difficult things that I had to face. I loved my work and my team. I was definitely a workaholic. I probably still am a little bit of a workaholic. I decided to make my transition a transformation. I wanted to be in a role where I could be more helpful and supportive to others.
TaskQue: You coach and train young minds in project management field, how do you find this experience yourself?
Margaret: Every group I work with either teaches me something new or gives me a good refresher on something that I thought I knew. It could be something as simple as learning about better ways to talk about the critical path or it could be developing a better understanding of how those who are new to project management perceive what is going on in the workplace today.
Another area where I have been fortunate is to work with many international students and to really have a good conversation about our understandings (or misunderstandings) of our various cultures.
TaskQue: What is your view are productivity killers at workplace and how a project manager can overcome them without getting engaged in a conflict?
Margaret: We ask people to work on too many things at a time and we do not provide clarity around which item is the priority. So many people come to me with confusion. They ask their management for a clear direction and they do not get one. Frequently it is because their management is also overwhelmed and confused. They do not give an answer because they do not know what answer to give and they are afraid to give the wrong answer. So they give no answer.
Team members are left to spin their wheels and try to figure it out.
The best thing a project manager can do is to provide a safe and supportive environment for their team members. To have open conversations. To admit that they do not have all of the answers and to work with the team to define roles and responsibilities and set clear priorities.
You cannot always control the workplace culture around you, but you can create a team culture that lets your group know that you have each other’s backs.
TaskQue: You have worked significantly in the field of conflict management, what do you think is the major reason people who do not have an ability to effectively cope with a conflict get road blocked in their careers?
Margaret: If you work with a team and they never experience conflict, then something is wrong. And if your team never involves you in conflict, then something is wrong. In both cases it does not mean that there is no conflict, it means that in the first instance, nobody is acknowledging or handling the conflict. In the second instance, it means the team no longer looks to you to lead them through conflict. When this occurs, you are no longer a leader, you are simply an administrator.
Project managers who do not learn how to lead themselves and their teams through conflict cannot rise above a certain level. Their lack of conflict resolution skill will show up in missed deadlines, misunderstandings about scope and budget issues. All of these things are career limiting for project managers.
TaskQue: At initial stages of your career in project management, how did you discover that you have strength in training and coaching side, is there some recipe for self-recognition?
Margaret: When I went through my difficult experience of losing my job. The first people who called me to let me know that they would miss me and to wish me well were all people who used to come by my office for official or unofficial coaching and mentoring. This was one of those ‘Aha’ moments.
TaskQue: Human side of project management and soft skills are crucial in any organization and you have worked great in this area as well, how do you think a manager who is good at technical aspect can enhance his/her soft skills?
Margaret: Wow, this is a big and important topic. The first step is to recognize that there is room for growth and that growth is possible. Next, reach out to trusted colleagues for feedback on the best area for you to work on. Then, find some help in that area. Then create a development plan for yourself and practice. It is important to remember that none of us are 100% perfect in our soft skills all of the time. And we all can improve. This is a good thing. It means we can all keep learning and growing and becoming better human beings.
TaskQue: It is quite difficult to be updated with all the latest practices and tools getting introduced in the project management, how do you keep your pace being a teacher matching such evolving environment?
Margaret: I listen to my students. I ask them to show me what they are working on and what they are using. They know so much more about industry news and so many of them are eager to share what they know.
TaskQue: Currently, virtual training is getting very popular and you happen to provide both virtual as well as in person training which method do you find yourself to be more effective and fruitful?
Margaret: Both! Now, that is probably not the answer you were seeking. But it is true. What makes one more effective than another? Of course in either scenario, you need someone who is a skilled teacher. Of equal importance is understanding your own best learning style. Some people do very well in virtual learning situations. They appreciate the flexibility; they are not shy about reaching out across virtual boundaries to ask questions and to interact with others.
Some people like and need the experience of being in the physical classroom with others. They like the face-to-face interaction, and they prefer the discipline of being required to come to class on a certain day and time.
TaskQue: Apart from work tell us more about your family and how you spent your leisure time for getting refreshed?
Margaret: It may not sound very relaxing, but for the past several years I have been pursuing my own advanced degrees A Ph.D. in religious studies. In a sense, this has filled up my hobby time.
Good friends and interesting travel and activities help keep me balanced. When it is time to relax, you might find me in the kitchen or curl up with a good book.