We all have perceptions on how people should act in our personal and professional lives. Mothers should be loving, fathers should be supportive, bosses should be knowledgeable and project managers should be…well, you’ll need to fill in the rest for this one. This is because there are so many different perceptions about how a project manager should act.
This begs the question then…what should a project manager be like? That’s really a personal opinion with hundreds of different possible answers. Some may say they should be firm, stern, kind, nice, concerned, eloquent, good-presenter, great communicator, or someone known for their effective collaboration. The list can fill up an entire page with very different ideas and perceptions of how a project manager should act.
However, let’s take this from a different angle. What are some of the ways a Project Manager should NOT act? This is a shorter and more obvious list. We tender the following 5 ways for your consideration:
Who wants to follow a project manager that is unsure of themselves and doesn’t have a clear direction of where they are going? Nobody. Project Management is a leadership position and people, not surprisingly, look to them for leadership. Nowhere is the quality of hesitancy more loathe than during crisis situations on a project. These are the times on the project when something has gone wrong and decisions need to be made. Direction needs to be given in real time. This is when a project manager digs into their past experience with similar situations and gets things under control quickly.
We’re not talking about being rude. If you accidentally bump into someone in the hallway you should apologize. What we are talking about is apologizing for every little thing that doesn’t go just according to plan. A project manager is responsible for managing any number of resources that do not directly report to him. Most of the time they will do things perfectly. Other times, what they deliver may be close. Less frequently, their output may be a total miss.If you have to apologize for each and every one of these situations, you will find yourself apologizing all day long. You will quickly begin to lose your effectiveness and credibility. Rather, if it’s a small enough issue that doesn’t negatively impact anything…let it go. If it’s a bigger deal, rather than come in with an apology…come in with the facts and a solution. “This is what happened. It did not go according to plan. However, we do have a plan in place that will get us back on track quickly”.Now, if it’s a trend that project deliverables are constantly missed on your project, then that’s an entirely different issue. But, if it’s the type of miss that occurs every now and then in the normal course of business, just fix it and move on.
“Who wouldn’t want a thoughtful project manager?”, you may wonder. We are not talking about thoughtful as in “considerate”, but rather thoughtful in “thinking a lot”. Project Managers are faced with having to make decisions all day long. There are always multiple paths to take, different resources that could be used, and various ways to get something done. They all require thought and thought requires time. But, don’t get stuck in paralysis by analysis. Project Management is an action-oriented discipline. You need to keep things moving forward. You are not tasked with having to make “the best” decision every time, but rather a “good decision” every time. Take the time necessary to make lots of “good” fast decisions and you will do just fine in your career.
You will see many unbelievable things as you move along in your career as project manager. In your early years as a project manager it may have surprised you if somebody committed to doing something, did not deliver on time. Or, that a client asked for something just the way you delivered it and then said they never said to do it that way. Or, that timelines or budgets were slashed in half while the scope of the project was not.People don’t want to follow a project manager that is surprised by these types of events all the time. Rather, they are looking for someone that has “been there, done that”, knows how to deal with the situation at hand, and expeditiously puts the issue to rest.There’s another facet to being surprised. This is when everything falls in line, the project is delivered on time, it’s scoped properly and everyone is thrilled with the results. If you are a project manager that says “I’m so surprised that happened this way”, then that doesn’t elicit confidence in you either. This is what good and effective project managers do and this should not come as a surprise to anyone.
By the Book, Exclusively
The Book provides some great guidelines but isn’t intended to be followed exclusively in all situations. The “Book” is any project management methodology, development methodology or other system that has been put in place for you and your team to follow. Some project managers adulate the Book so much that it begins to take the place of common sense.For example, perhaps part of the process spelled out in the Book is that prior to moving out of one phase and into the next, there’s a particular signature that needs to be in place. The problem is that the person with that signature is out of the country for two weeks. But, the project needs to move to the next phase by the end of this week to be delivered on time. Rather than figuring out an alternative to move the project forward, I’ve seen “stick-in-the-mud” project managers who find it extremely hard and painful to make an exception to the Book, ultimately compromising the completion of the project.
There are as many perceptions of what qualities a good project manager should possess as there are ways to complete a project. However, there are some universal truths when it comes to how a project manager should NOT act. Always remember that a project manager is in a leadership role within the company and their actions should be commensurate with that visible position.
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