I have been part of a stream of consciousness on a LinkedIn forum about the characteristics of a great project manger. For the spelling and grammar purists out there, the word is currently on the forum spelled as manger rather than manager. I am being to wonder if the most important characteristic of a project manager shouldn’t be an ability to spell, read and comprehend the content of a message.
As I thought about the forum and the abundance of responses, it occurred to me that the most important leaders in politics, the military, in business and personally have always lead from the front.
In the interest of disclosure, I am now a Founding Member of the John Maxwell Coaching, Speaking and Training Team. As I listened to John Maxwell communicate his expectations of our team, it occurred to me that he is the kind of person that as a project manager that I have always enjoyed working with, have tried to emulate and will try emulate in the future.
John showed us by his example what he expects and what he values. I am going to take his message and make it project management centric.
- Project Managers must value people. Early in my career, I worked with a gentleman name John Fraser. He always told us that we were the most important resource he had in his project. He stood between us and the rest of the world. When the going got tough, you could always go into John’s office and talk. He would listen and help you come to a resolution. Thanks John for a lesson that has served me well to this day.
- Project Managers must value process. To many times, project managers don’t walk the talk. They create scope statements, schedules, risk registers, issues logs and a myriad of documents that return no value to the stakeholders. One of biggest challenges that I get is we can’t do that, our project managers don’t do that, or our certified project managers don’t do that. If project managers can’t follow a consistent process, they are putting their team members at risk. From where I sit, it is unconscionable.
- Project Managers must value personal and team growth. You can never learn to much but you can certainly learn to little. Project Managers who never get out of their cubicle or issue mandates from behind closed doors are not project managers .. in fact, I am having trouble finding a polite word I would use to describe them. Many of us have worked with project managers who have learned nothing from previous projects, refuse to use current tools, refuse to share information and … this list could go on forever. In order to be a project manager to be an effective leader, you must provide opportunities for your team, your stakeholders, and you to learn and grow.
We must lead from the front. A project manager must:
- develop a course of action – Regardless of how big your ego may be, you will never have all the answers. Give your team a chance to be involved and be part of the solution.
- communicate the project goal and objectives – Know your stakeholders and better yet let them know you. You can contribute a lot to the team by being the person who does the preliminary ground work. You don’t need to have all the answers but you need to have enough to get started.
- obtain a priority – Let the stakeholders know what the priorities are .. think of this as risk mitigation
- keep the core team in the loop – There should be no surprises, this must be a bi-directional communication channel. What this really means is that you are open to hear how things really are rather than how you want them to be. If you are prone to fits of anger, you will never know the real truth.
- scan the horizon for problems, risks, and deviations. The nature of project management is that you have to be prepared for changes to scope, schedule, cost and quality. These are the minimum changes that will occur. Always be looking for the deviations.
The title isn’t as important as being willing to say ‘ Hi, my name is (put yours here). I am your project manager. My role is to stand between you and the rest of the world so that the team can be successful. If you will always tell me the truth, I will work with you to find solutions. Your experience is as important as mine. I have some answers but not all the answers. Your answers have value. If we aren’t in sych, tell me. We can fix anything as long as all the cards are on the table.”
Just a reminder, if you can’t look yourself in the mirror and know that you have done your best for your team, you are in the wrong position, fix it. Get out in front. No one even won observing from the rear.
To quote J. C. Watts, ‘character is doing what is right, when no one is looking.’