Today’s A&E (Architecture & Engineering) project managers are challenged by staff labor shortages, turnover, client fee pressure and responsibility for tasks they are not trained to do. Some of these responsibilities include: 

  • Business Development and Networking 
  • Technical writing 
  • Proposal Interviews 
  • Hiring and managing staff 
  • Developing project estimates and budgets 
  • Resource scheduling 
  • Project financial management 
  • Billing 
  • Collections 
  • Dealing with difficult clients 
  • Minimizing project risk 
  • Solving complex problems 

Technical skills alone are not enough for success. Many PMs (Project Managers) lack confidence when dealing with financial matters, understanding project reports, and talking with clients about money. This lack of confidence in business and financial acumen can lead to various negative behaviors, which ultimately affect the profitability of projects and their firms.  

With the right approach, training, and practice, it is possible to build confidence in project managers and help them become more effective leaders. Below we will explore the importance of building confidence in PMs and provide practical tips to achieve this goal. 

The Impact of Confidence on A&E Project Managers

Confidence is a crucial attribute for any successful project manager. It empowers them to make informed decisions, communicate effectively, and handle challenges with ease. Unfortunately, many PMs struggle with self-limiting beliefs that decrease their confidence, particularly when it comes to financial matters and business-related activities. This lack of confidence manifests in multiple ways, including: 

  • Fear of Asking for Change Orders – PMs may hesitate to request additional compensation for changes in project scope, leading to potential revenue losses. 
  • Apprehension About Upsetting Clients – Fear of upsetting clients prevents PMs from discussing problems or necessary project adjustments, affecting project timelines and budgets. 
  • Discounting Fees – Offering services at discounted rates due to a lack of understanding and confidence in the value provided. 
  • Project Losses – Inadequate financial understanding can result in projects running at a loss, affecting the overall profitability of the firm. 
  • Difficulty Understanding Financial Reports – Without a strong financial background, PMs may struggle to comprehend project financial reports and take appropriate action. 
  • Avoiding Collections Calls – PMs may avoid addressing overdue payments, leading to cash flow issues for the firm. 
  • Fear of “Selling” and Networking – A lack of confidence in business development activities may hinder firm growth. 
  • Reluctance to Pursue Leadership Roles – Without confidence in their abilities, PMs may be hesitant to seek leadership positions or ownership within the company. 

    The Lost Dollars and the Path to Confidence 

    The consequences of PMs lacking confidence in their business skills are significant, with A&E firms potentially losing substantial sums of money each year. However, building confidence in project managers can be achieved through a strategic approach, proper training, and consistent practice. The following are steps you can take to build confidence in your PMs and give them the skills and tools to deliver profitable projects:

    • Training and Knowledge –The first step is to provide comprehensive training in financial and management skills. PMs should be equipped with the necessary knowledge to understand financial reports, estimate project costs accurately, and confidently discuss financial matters with clients. With the confidence to understand financial reports, PMs will understand how to estimate, budget, monitor and deliver successful projects.
    • Mentorship and Guidance – Pairing less experienced PMs with seasoned mentors can be highly beneficial. Experienced mentors can share their insights and offer guidance to help boost the confidence of their mentees.  
    • Create a Safe Environment – The best way to get buy-in for implementation of better processes and systems is to encourage open communication and create a safe space where PMs can voice their concerns and ask questions without fear of judgment. This fosters a culture of continuous learning and growth. When your PMs are given the opportunity to provide feedback and ideas for improvement, they will be more motivated to adopt recommended best practices and less likely to resist change.
    • Practice and Role-playing – Simulated scenarios and role-playing exercises can help PMs practice difficult conversations, negotiations, and business development activities in a controlled environment. By enabling your PMs to practice difficult conversations and practice asking for change orders, it will be more comfortable and easier for them to do it when needed. 
    • Feedback and Recognition – Provide constructive feedback and acknowledge the achievements of PMs when they demonstrate confidence in their roles. Positive reinforcement boosts self-assurance and encourages further growth. This will also create a culture of performance and accountability. Most top performers want to be held accountable and recognized for their achievements.
    • Personal Development Opportunities – Offer opportunities for PMs to attend workshops, seminars, and conferences to enhance their business acumen and leadership skills. These educational events can be combined with business development activities to ensure they are focused. One way to ensure you get a return on investment from conferences is to set goals and map out strategies for ensuring they are productive and valuable. 

      Building confidence in project managers is a critical investment for A&E firms. It empowers PMs to excel in their roles, make informed decisions, and drive the success of their projects and their firms. However, most training programs such as boot camps, seminars and internal workshops are not effective at changing the behavior of your PMs. They often mix people from various firms and do not touch on the specific behavior changes that will affect project profitability. 

      After working with thousands of A&E PMs over the last eight years with our Find the Lost Dollars training program, I have discovered some important keys to ensuring measurable goals for training can be achieved. Business management training for A&E professionals should include the following to be effective: 

      • Cohorts of professionals at different levels of experience, different departments, and offices, and from the same company 
      • Engaging online content that can be consumed remotely at any time
      • Group discussions to connect the topics to your own company, clients, and projects 
      • Specific and measurable tools to ensure participants are learning and applying the best practices 
      • Clear tracking of improvement to company business practices suggested by participants 
      • Tracking of KPIs (key performance indicators) to measure efficacy of the program 

        By providing the right training, mentorship, and support, A&E firms can create a team of confident and effective project managers, leading to happier PMs and more profitable projects.  

        If you are interested in investing in the development of your project managers, let’s discuss how our 3-Step program can guide your firm to find the lost dollars and unlock higher profits for your firm. 


        Unlock the true potential of your firm's performance

        Join the ranks of successful architects and engineers who have benefited from this transformational program, based on the bestselling book by A&E profitability expert, June R. Jewell.

        Our program guarantees the following: 

        • Increase your Win Rate, Utilization and Project Profit Margins
        • Hold Your Staff Accountable for Measurable Results
        • Set Goals and track Progress
        • 10 Hour Self-Paced, Engaging, Fun Format with NO Time Out of the Office
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