Oct 10 2023

Four Tools for Coaching & Project Management Success

Project Leadership
15 minutes
project management success

Over the last few years, I have transitioned from working as a program/project manager to speaking to, writing for, and coaching project managers. And I have been paying a lot of attention to the tools that bring success. All too often we seek the “one thing” that will magically make us happy, successful, and effective. There are countless books and courses on the 5 steps to… or the 7 secrets of…

What I have found is that success and happiness come from an ever-changing blend of qualities that we need to dial up and dial down. The four I am going to write about today are what seem to be the foundation of a fruitful life journey.

  • Understanding and cultivating hope,
  • Understanding what resources, we already have – our character strengths,
  • Understanding and engaging strategies to ramp up bravery – and knowing that bravery often means accepting fear,
  • And appreciating the light and dark sides of curiosity as guiding mindset.

Harnessing Hope: The Triumph of Hope over Experience

Hope is often confused with faith, wishing, trusting that things will work out OK. Thankfully it is a more complex and more manageable state of mind. We can take control of hope and make hopeful outcomes more likely to happen.

Exploring the Nature of Hope

A couple of times in the last few months, I have facilitated live explorations of hope. It is one of my favorite topics. So much so, that there is a chapter dedicated to it in my upcoming book that will be published by @Wiley in the new year. One of the reasons I love this topic is because it reminds ME to really think about how the environment supports hope.

Hope as a Core Project Management Strength

Back in 2018-19 I asked more than 450 project managers to take the VIA Character Strengths Assessment and the early results showed that the strength of HOPE is one that shows up a lot as a top strength in project managers. Not such a surprise when you think about what project managers do – start with nothing and work with a team to build a vision of the future!

But what is hope?

Researchers such as C. Rick Snyder and Shane Lopez have helped us to develop a greater understanding of hope and how to harness it.

Hope = Vision + Pathways + Agency


Hope = being able to describe your goals clearly through every sense + being able to identify ways to get to the goals and + believing that you can make the outcome more – or less – likely with the actions you take.

My Own Experience with Hope

In August 2023, I broke my leg. Two weeks later, I had surgery to repair it. It was particularly frustrating because we have just moved back to Raleigh-Durham and want to be out and about exploring AND is a golden opportunity – because I am using the opportunity to review and replan business strategy. But I was six weeks away from being up and mobile and three months away from driving. Yes, I broke my RIGHT ankle!

There is nothing like lying flat on your back for a couple of weeks to (a) make you bored and (b) help focus your attention on what matters most and what is DOABLE.

I am excited by the new ideas, and the revised goals. And I am energized to put the things in place that will support me in supporting you – with coaching, speaking and writing.

To do that I needed to look at my environment. I couldn’t sit easily at a desk, having a laptop perched on my knee is not healthy so we took a long hard look – and some advice – at what I need to be productive over the next few weeks.

Taking Steps to Make Hope Happen

Thanks to my endlessly patient husband, we have been able to come up with wheelchair + table on wheels. It meets the requirement of keeping my leg raised (thankfully it no longer must be raised over my heart!), giving me a well-placed workspace to work on, a professional enough environment, my own space (we were in a rental and were fortunate to have a space like this for me to call my own!)

I felt more hopeful than I have in weeks! I have a vision (more on that to come), I see pathways forward and I feel like I can do things that are going to make this all doable!

  • What do you have in your environment that supports hope?
  • Who can help you?
  • What are you hopeful about?

Want to measure your own Hopeful tendencies. Use this link to access a Hope Assessment. https://projectmotivator.com/the-future-scale-hope-assessment/

Beyond Superficial Labels: Exploring the Depth and Diversity of Character Strengths

In the intricate tapestry of human emotions and capabilities, character strengths stand as one of the most radiant and transformative threads. Our strengths, those inherent qualities that define our essence, are not monolithic. They're not rigid, fixed entities. Rather, they are as diverse and dynamic as the people who possess them, weaving a rich narrative of our individuality.

The Notion of Character Strengths

Character strengths, as explored in positive psychology, refer to those innate qualities and virtues that are integral to our personality. They represent the positive aspects of our psychological makeup, encompassing traits like courage, kindness, creativity, resilience, and many others. These strengths influence our thoughts, behaviors, and interactions with the world around us. They're the cornerstones of our identities, shaping the paths we choose and the lives we lead.

Moving Beyond Stereotypes

Society often tends to oversimplify these strengths. We're quick to label someone as "brave" or "kind" based on a single observable act. We pigeonhole individuals into predefined categories, reducing their complex tapestry of strengths to mere stereotypes. But when we embark on the journey of exploring character strengths, we recognize the fallacy of such superficial labels.

The Depth of Strengths

Character strengths run deep, far below the surface of what meets the eye. Take courage, for instance. It's not just about facing physical danger; it's also the quiet strength to persevere through emotional turmoil or to admit vulnerability. Kindness isn't merely a superficial act of charity; it's the profound capacity to empathize with others and offer genuine support.

The Dynamic Nature of Strengths

Furthermore, our strengths aren't static; they evolve over time and adapt to different contexts. A person might exhibit immense creativity in the realm of art and innovation, but that creativity can also manifest in problem-solving, relationship-building, or even parenting. It's the versatility of strengths that adds depth to our personalities.

The Interplay of Strengths

Another aspect that often goes unnoticed is the interconnectedness of strengths. They rarely exist in isolation. When we dive into character strengths, we find that they complement and amplify one another. Compassion can fuel bravery, while curiosity can enhance creativity. Understanding this interplay allows us to harness our strengths more effectively and cultivate a harmonious blend.

The Power of Awareness and Development

Exploring the depth and diversity of character strengths begins with self-awareness. It's about peeling back the layers of societal conditioning and superficial judgments to understand who we truly are. Once we're aware of our strengths, we can nurture and develop them intentionally. This process involves self-reflection, seeking feedback, and finding opportunities to apply our strengths in various aspects of life.

Embracing Diversity in Strengths

As a coach, I've had the privilege of witnessing the incredible diversity of strengths within individuals. I've seen introverts display remarkable leadership through their wisdom and humility, and I've watched seemingly reserved individuals express incredible courage when aligned with their values. Recognizing and celebrating this diversity is a testament to the richness of human potential.

In the grand symphony of life, our character strengths are the instruments through which we create our unique melodies. They are the shades on our canvas, the ingredients in our recipe, and the tools in our toolbox. But they are far more than mere labels or superficial descriptions. They are the essence of our humanity, waiting to be explored, celebrated, and cultivated.

So, I invite you to embark on your own journey of self-discovery. Look beyond the stereotypes and the surface. Dive deep into your character strengths, explore their diversity, and understand the intricate interplay that makes you who you are. Embrace the complexity of your strengths, for within that complexity lies the beauty of your authenticity.

In my upcoming book, "Be Hopeful, Be Strong, Be Brave, Be Curious," I delve deeper into the exploration of character strengths and how they can be harnessed to lead a more meaningful and fulfilling life. It's a journey of self-discovery, growth, and transformation. Stay tuned for more insights and guidance on this profound voyage of self-awareness and personal development.

Discover your strengths by taking the assessment here: https://BeHopefulBeStrong.pro.viasurvey.org

Fear as Fuel: Reimagining Bravery and Harnessing Your Inner Courage

Fear is one of the most powerful and paradoxical threads in our life journey. It's an emotion that can paralyze us, causing hesitation and doubt, yet it's also the force that has propelled humanity forward throughout history. Fear, when harnessed and transformed, can be the catalyst for immense personal growth and profound transformation. In this exploration, we'll delve into the depths of fear, dissect its psychological underpinnings, and learn how to reimagine bravery, turning fear into a potent source of inner courage.

The Nature of Fear: A Paradoxical Emotion

Fear, in its essence, is a primal response to perceived threats or dangers. It's hardwired into our biology, a survival mechanism designed to keep us safe. When we encounter a situation that our brain interprets as potentially harmful, our bodies react by releasing stress hormones, preparing us for the "fight or flight" response. However, fear doesn't always serve us well in the modern world. Our brains often misinterpret everyday challenges, such as public speaking or career changes, as life-threatening situations. This can lead to unnecessary anxiety and avoidance behaviors. The key is to recognize that fear, while protective, isn't always accurate in its assessments.

The Psychological Underpinnings of Fear

To harness fear, we must first understand its psychological roots. Fear often originates from the unknown, a lack of control, or the anticipation of negative outcomes. It's deeply connected to our sense of self-preservation and ego protection. We fear failure because it threatens our self-esteem. We fear rejection because it threatens our sense of belonging. Moreover, fear is closely tied to the stories we tell ourselves—the narratives that shape our beliefs about what's possible and what isn't. These stories, often rooted in childhood experiences or societal conditioning, can either amplify or mitigate our fears.

Fear and Bravery: A Complex Relationship

Bravery isn't the absence of fear; it's the ability to act despite it. Think of fear as a raw material—a potent fuel waiting to be transformed. Bravery, then, is the process of refining and channeling this fuel into purposeful action. It's about acknowledging fear's presence and choosing to move forward, driven by a higher purpose or goal. But how do we turn fear into courage? It starts with understanding that fear often arises from our thoughts and perceptions. We fear the unknown, the judgment of others, or the potential for failure. These are all products of our minds, and they can be reshaped through mindful awareness. 

Harnessing Fear: Practical Steps to Cultivate Courage

  1. Mindfulness and Self-Compassion: Begin by acknowledging your fears without judgment. Mindfulness helps you observe your thoughts and emotions without getting entangled in them. Self-compassion allows you to treat yourself with the same kindness you would offer a friend in times of struggle.
  2. Redefine Failure: Embrace the idea that failure is a natural part of growth. It's not a reflection of your worth but rather an opportunity to learn and evolve. Shift your perspective from fearing failure to embracing it as a stepping stone on your journey.
  3. Set Clear Intentions: Clarify your values and what truly matters to you. When your actions are aligned with your values, fear loses its grip because you're driven by a sense of purpose greater than your fear.
  4. Practice Gratitude: Cultivate a daily gratitude practice to focus on the positive aspects of your life. Gratitude can counteract the negativity bias that often fuels fear.
  5. Seek Support and Learning: Surround yourself with a supportive community and seek knowledge.

Understanding your fears better and sharing your experiences can be immensely empowering.

Fear as the Catalyst for Transformation

To truly harness fear, we must recognize it as a catalyst for transformation. It's the energy that propels us to step out of our comfort zones, to confront the unknown, and to embark on journeys of self-discovery. When we face our fears, we unveil hidden strengths and capabilities we never knew existed.

Fear can be the driving force behind innovation, creativity, and resilience. It can push us to take calculated risks, explore uncharted territories, and challenge the status quo. In the world of business, it's often the entrepreneurs who dare to embrace their fears and act in spite of them that bring about groundbreaking change.

The Alchemy of Fear into Courage

Fear is a natural part of the human experience, but it need not hold us hostage. By reframing our relationship with fear, we can tap into its incredible energy and transform it into courage. Bravery is not the absence of fear but rather the audacity to confront it head-on and take purposeful action.

In my coaching practice and the upcoming book, "Be Hopeful, Be Strong, Be Brave, Be Curious," I delve deeper into the intricacies of fear and the art of harnessing it for personal growth. Together, let's embrace fear as fuel, reimagining it as the very force that propels us toward our aspirations. Fear can be a powerful motivator, a beacon signaling areas where we can grow, learn, and evolve. It's a compass pointing us towards the uncharted territories of our potential.

As we navigate the complexities of life, remember that fear, when understood and channeled, can become a trusted ally on our journey.

Take the courage assessment to find out more about your own levels of bravery! https://projectmotivator.com/courage-assessment/

Curious Mindset: The Gateway to Lifelong Learning and Creative Expansion

Curiosity gleams as one of the most vibrant threads in life. It's the spark that ignites the flames of discovery, the compass guiding us through the labyrinth of knowledge, and the driving force behind transformative change.

Curiosity: The Birthplace of Knowledge

Let's begin with a fundamental truth: curiosity is hardwired into our DNA. It's what propels us to explore the world around us from the moment we open our eyes as infants. But as we grow, society sometimes quells this natural instinct. The weight of routine, responsibilities, and expectations can dim the flame of curiosity. It's crucial to reignite it.

A curious mindset is akin to an open door, welcoming new ideas, experiences, and perspectives. It's the gateway to a lifelong love affair with learning. Just as a child's eyes widen in wonder when they encounter something new, we, too, can experience this sense of awe as adults. By nurturing curiosity, we keep the flame burning bright.

Curiosity and Lifelong Learning

Curiosity fuels the engine of lifelong learning. It's the driving force that compels us to ask questions, seek answers, and explore the uncharted territories of knowledge. When we approach life with a curious mindset, every experience becomes an opportunity to grow. We become voracious readers, insatiable learners, and enthusiastic explorers of our interests.

Curiosity is like a guiding star on our journey of self-discovery. It encourages us to step out of our comfort zones, to challenge our assumptions, and to embrace the unfamiliar. It's through this process that we uncover hidden talents, untapped potentials, and unexplored passions.

The Creative Power of Curiosity

Curiosity is the wellspring of creativity. It's the muse that inspires artists, inventors, and innovators. When we approach life with an inquisitive mind, we see problems as puzzles waiting to be solved, and challenges as opportunities to stretch our creative muscles. It's not just about finding answers; it's about asking the right questions. Curious individuals are more likely to connect seemingly unrelated ideas, sparking innovation and pushing boundaries.

Now, you might be wondering, how can we cultivate a curious mindset in our daily lives? The answer lies in embracing several key practices:

  1. Ask Questions: Don't be afraid to ask "why" and "how." Questions are the seeds of curiosity.
  2. Stay Open-Minded: Approach life with a willingness to learn and an openness to new perspectives.
  3. Explore Diverse Interests: Pursue hobbies and interests that are entirely unrelated to your daily routine. The cross-pollination of ideas often leads to creative breakthroughs.
  4. Embrace Challenges: View challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than obstacles.
  5. Stay Playful: Cultivate a playful spirit. Playfulness is closely tied to curiosity.
  6. Read Widely: Explore books, articles, and resources outside your comfort zone.
  7. Engage in Dialogue: Engaging in meaningful conversations with others can expose you to new viewpoints and ideas.

In closing, I want to emphasize that a curious mindset is a lifelong companion on our journey of self-discovery and personal growth. It's the beacon that lights our path, the key that unlocks the doors to knowledge, and the brush that paints the canvas of creativity.

Find out about your style of curiosity with the 5 Curiosity Dimension Assessment (reproduced with permission from Dr. Todd Kashdan)

To find out more about these topics and more, order Ruth’s book (due for publication by Wiley Publishing, February 2024): Be Hopeful; Be Strong; Be Brave; Be Curious – How Coaching Can Help You Get Out of Your Own Way and Create a Meaningful Life https://www.amazon.com/Hopeful-Strong-Brave-Curious-Meaningful/dp/1394206542/

Want to connect with and learn more about Ruth Pearce? Connect with her on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/ruth-pearce-projectmotivator/ and check out her LinkedIn Learning Courses for Project Managers: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/instructors/ruth-pearce

project management success
About the Author:

I am an experienced book author, coach, and speaker with over 25 years of experience in project management, leadership, and personal development. I am passionate about helping people discover and use their character strengths to achieve their goals and fulfill their potential.

Pre-order the new Book coming in January 2024, from Wiley Publishing

 project management success


  • Snyder, C. R. (1994). The psychology of hope: You can get there from here. Free Press.
  • Lopez, S. J. (2013). Making hope happen: create the future you want for yourself and others. New York, Free Press.
  • Kashdan, T. B., Disabato, D. J., Goodman, F. R., & McKnight, P. E. (2020). The Five-Dimensional Curiosity Scale Revised (5DCR): Briefer subscales while separating overt and covert social curiosity. Personality and Individual Differences, 157, Article 109836.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.109836
  • HBR Spotlight Series – Why Curiosity Matters: https://hbr.org/2018/09/the-business-case-for-curiosity?ab=seriesnav-spotlight
  • Character Strengths VIA Website: https://www.viacharacter.org/
  • Biswas-Diener, R. (2012). The courage quotient: How science can make you braver. Jossey-Bass/Wiley.
  • Pury, C. L. S. (2009). Courage (S. J. Lopez, Ed.). In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 375–382). Oxford University Press.

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