Then, Stop Managing and Start Leading
A few years after I was promoted to my Project Management position within my organization, I would wake up in the middle of the night worrying about the mediocre performance I was getting from my project teams.
All my projects would start out okay. Then, they would end up behind schedule and over budget. Seldom did the final deliverables meet all the requirements as defined in the statement of work. So, I was constantly put in the position of having to use my charm and my ability to communicate upward to convince project stakeholders that what was delivered was good enough.
Still, for years I continued to have sleepless nights. I knew that someday it would all catch up with me and a major project failure would be so costly and damaging to my organization that it would be the end of my Project Management career.
During that time, I began to read books on Project Management and attend courses on managing people and projects. I joined my local PM Support Group for encouragement and guidance. I even earned a PM certification. I was determined to find out how I could end this nightmare.
It wasn’t until I met a retired Project Manager who was teaching a graduate course on leadership development at a local community college that I realized what I really needed was some practical, real-world advice on improving project performance. After class one night, I met with her and found the courage to simply ask, “What can I do today to improve the performance of my project teams?”
She took the time to share with me two nuggets of valuable advice, which eventually ended my sleepless nights and propelled me to a stellar Project Management career.
The first nugget was obvious but required me to seriously take it to heart and believe it. She told me that I must always remember and trust in the following:
“Barring a natural disaster, given an achievable project plan, the required technical and administrative resources, a sufficient budget and a reasonable project schedule…the only thing that can be a drag on project performance is the Project Manager.”
The second nugget she shared was a professional awakening, at least for me.
She said, “You must also remember that you manage things and you lead people.”
Being a little shocked, I curiously asked her for clarification…and she added:
“For you NOT be a drag on the performance of your projects, you should use your management skills to do two critical things:
- Clearly understand the requirements, expectations and feasibility of the project; and
- Develop the optimum project plan & schedule, obtain the best technical & administrative resources and negotiate a sufficient budget, including an adequate reserve.
Then, you must stop managing and start leading.”
She explained the “leading” part this way. To be an effective project leader, you must be:
- Flexible – Because your leadership style and focus must change based on the composition, maturity and geographical location of your team members.
- A Change Mediator – Because if it turns out that your project team must be more task-oriented due to the nature of the work or becomes creative and prefers a different approach to achieve the same goal within project constraints, it’s okay. Just make sure you are the mediator – the one who balances rewards and risks.
- A Coach – Because if the project team and the situation demand it, you should be a coach. A sincere effort to be encouraging, to solicit inputs and explain certain decisions builds trust.
- Courageous – Because effective and respected project leaders must not be afraid to take chances and do what’s needed to ensure their team’s ultimate success; and
- Humble – Because you are not expected to know it all. Highly developed and mature teams will value your humility, accept your limitations and seek your wisdom.
To learn more about becoming an effective Project Manager and Leader and to receive a complimentary PDF copy of the new “Driving Ultimate Project Performance: Transforming from Project Manager to Project Leader” Workbook, just click HERE.