Michael DePrisco, of PMI: “Empathize”

by Jerome Knyszewski
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Michael DePrisco PMI

Michael DePrisco is the Vice President of Global Experience & Solutions at the Project Management Institute (PMI).

At PMI, Michael DePrisco works with a global team that “supports more than 900,000 active certification holders, 560,000 members and 300 chapters from over 200 countries.”

As Vice President of PMI, Michael DePrisco “provides executive leadership to the Product, Services, Events & Content organization” for the company’s global team.

Likewise, Michael DePrisco offers the same service for the Digital Solutions team at PMI, “as well as the PMI Educational Foundation (PMIEF).

In 2013, Michael DePrisco joined PMI. He has worked in several positions within the organization “including Vice President, Global Membership & Chapters, and Vice President, Academic and Educational Programs.”

Before joining PMI, Michael DePrisco held “executive positions in higher education.” He “executed university strategic plans to ensure integration and alignment of key initiatives and priorities.”

Also, Michael DePrisco “provided executive oversight to campus development and growth, including student acquisition and retention, program development, financial management and stakeholder relationships.”

Michael DePrisco graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Education from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. He also received a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration and Counseling.

Likewise, Michael DePrisco has earned a Certificate in Company Direction (International) from the Institute of Directors.”

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In other words, I had to learn to let go and not sweat the small stuff.

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Michael DePrisco: Much of my backstory revolves around education.

As I grew up, I originally wanted to be a high school history teacher, even going as far as earning both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.

But, like with most, my plans changed as I finished my graduate work.

I found myself working in higher education for years and had the opportunity to serve as president for several art and design colleges in the Mid-Atlantic.

My experience in higher education was incredible, and eventually led to me joining the Project Management Institute (PMI) as its Vice President of Academic and Educational Programs.

Over the years since, I have worn many different hats at PMI, moving from academic programs to lead our Global Membership & Chapters and, later, moving to my current role as Vice President of Global Experience & Solutions, where I am much more product-focused than my younger self would have ever expected.

Outside of my work, I love traveling, boating, fishing and spending time with my three kids.

One lesser-known fact about me was that I was a drummer in a rock band through high school.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Michael DePrisco: In my first real management role, I struggled.

While I had a team, I did not use them.

I was so used to working independently that I didn’t ask for help and I didn’t delegate.

Taking on all this work for myself led to me nearly quitting my role due to being burnt out.

However, with a young family at home, walking out simply was not an option.

I made the decision to stay with it and work to overcome this challenge, both to keep my job and to grow as a professional.

It was clear — I needed to figure out how to delegate properly.

I sought advice from a mentor, my direct manager at the time, who helped me realize that to be successful as a manager I needed to shift my mindset.

I needed to leverage the talent of my team and empower them to carry out the vision of the project.

In other words, I had to learn to let go and not sweat the small stuff.

I needed to let the team do what they were hired to do, and I needed to focus on my role as the guide or coach for the team.

I learned a tough and important lesson from this role, and I’m grateful that I had a mentor who was able to help me “see the light.”

From there I adjusted well, and it catapulted me to bigger roles with more responsibility.

If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Michael DePrisco: In my time working in higher education, I remember an instance where I placed a great deal of trust in a third-party vendor to deliver a major facility renovation project in time for the start of the upcoming semester.

The vendor made promise after promise that the renovation would be complete on time, and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

Fast forward to the first day of that semester and the project was anything but complete, resulting in disappointment and frustration on the part of my key stakeholders.

While I can’t say I find this to be “funny,” as I look back it certainly wasn’t as serious as I thought it was then.

It also helped me learn three very important lessons for my later career:

  • Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
  • Trust the data. In my case, I ignored some pretty compelling signals that the project would not be completed on time.
  • Don’t underestimate how important it is to manage stakeholder expectations.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.

Michael DePrisco: Delegating effectively is different for each professional and each team.

I think — like most workplace best practices — the delegation rule book has been rewritten in 2020. These are five thoughts that I keep in mind as I delegate work:

  • Empathize. With work and life becoming more intertwined due to the pandemic, it is important to recognize that some folks may not be coping well with a virtual situation or may be juggling more responsibilities than you realize.
  • Start with the end in mind. When delegating, aligning on a common goal with your team or team member is one of the first steps that must be taken.

    Having a vision of how a project should be completed not only provides a blueprint, but also may determine who you ask to step in on certain responsibilities.

  • Establish your roles and responsibilities. Especially if you are delegating to a team of professionals, it is important to establish clear roles and responsibilities to show the team how it will collectively reach the final goal.
  • Communicate, communicate and communicate along the way. This is now especially important as we work virtually, but even in a traditional office working environment communication is critical.

    Helping your team members prioritize deliverables to meet deadlines will save headache later and make the team more efficient.

  • Reward, recognition and acknowledgement is key. At the end of the day, as you delegate tasks to team members, it is equally important to recognize and reward quality work.

    In many cases, delegating work can see team members rise to an occasion or go above and beyond a project ask — it is important to acknowledge the effort, skill and talent that goes into successful deliverables.

Following these principles will make finding the delegation balance easier.

It’s also important to note that delegation practices need to be adapted to the specific team and even the specific team member you are working with at the time.

It is critical to have different delegation plans for employees who have differing schedules or ways of working.

Don’t underestimate how important it is to manage stakeholder expectations.

Jerome Knyszewski: One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?

Michael DePrisco: While workloads have increased exponentially in these unprecedented times due to having to navigate the New Work Ecosystem, the need to delegate to a team of project professionals has moved beyond strategic and become indispensable.

Collaborative leadership is especially important in today’s world as it helps you work more effectively, with teams engaging more deeply, building stronger trust and truly owning the work.

In fact, in our recent Pulse of the Profession survey, Tomorrow’s Teams Today, collaborative leadership was cited as the top skill for building effective teams.

As a result of COVID-19, we will see an expansion in the number of projects and programs as we work to rebuild the economy and those with strong project management skills will become essential to helping organizations turn ideas into a reality.

Individuals and organizations alike will need to be proactive in delegating, innovative and nimble to respond to changes whether they come from the market, competitors, economy, etc., in order to achieve success.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Michael DePrisco: Feel free to give me a follow on LinkedIn. It’s always great engaging with my network and I love hearing new ideas and experiences.

I also encourage you to check out PMI’s Blog.

I, along with my colleagues at PMI, are active regularly on the blog sharing our thoughts on some of the most pressing business discussions, including the future of work, AI, no-code and low-code platforms, and much more.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


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