Project management is not just about experience, leadership and organization. It is also about management style, interpersonal relationships, conflict management, task delegation and communication. But I think most of us who are battle-tested realize that by now. It isn’t always about having the right technology experience or even hands-on experience, though I feel – at least for tech projects – that can, at time be very helpful and important to success.
Let’s consider the role of management types in the project leadership role and issues or concerns that can come from this…
Installing the wrong type of leaders in the PM role
When we fail to get the right people and the right skill sets in management, project management, and general leadership positions what were are doing is increasing our company’s or our project’s likelihood for failure. And we are setting individuals and teams up to fail as well. The problem is especially common in project management.
Technical people are often thing-oriented rather than people-oriented. They tend to be a little more introverted, meaning that they are oriented toward their internal world of concepts and ideas, rather than toward the external world. We find out quickly, though, that we can’t deal with people the same way we would deal with things – people are not logical, rational, and subject to mathematical analysis. We have to learn that quickly – otherwise failure in a people-oriented leadership role like project management is imminent.
Managing with the wrong style for the situation, project or team
Some managers still subscribe to an authoritarian view of management. These types of leaders often view people as unmotivated (or motivated only by money), untrustworthy, and incapable of thinking and contributing independently. Such leadership styles don’t work as parents on our children and they don’t work on our direct reports as supervisors or on our project team members as project managers.
Such views tend to be self-confirming. The manager behaves as if people are incompetent, then finds that they seem to be exactly that. What he isn’t getting is that often his expectations are driving that outcome, unfortunately. And because he believes that the employees will let him down, he never takes the risk of trusting them, which would have allowed him to find that they actually will perform quite well if given a chance. Trust, give them a chance…it will make the PM’s life and job much easier overall.
Summary / call for input
What we must do as project managers – if we hope to find success managing our projects and if we hope to have the time to dedicate to our own critical tasks – is trust. We must trust ourselves that we we’ve selected a skilled and competent team – or at least that we’ve provided enough input that our management has selected a skilled and competent team for us. And we must trust that our very talented project team members are listening and working toward the same common success goals on the project that we are. We often don’t have the time to do otherwise, though if we let resource problems go unchecked we still have no one to blame but ourselves.
What’s your take? What are we getting right and what are we getting wrong when selecting our project leaders? What is working in your organization or with your teams?