I am in south Florida today attending a conference hosted by John Maxwell and his team of dedicated people.
In late June, I made a decision to become part of a group of people world-wide that are part of the John Maxwell team. Why? Because, John Maxwell is a man of principle and integrity. Today, our topic was coaching and leadership. I thought about the project managers and leaders that I would work for again in a heart beat, no questions asked. They were wise.
I thought that I would share the top three traits with you that I think could be the basis for a wise project leader or manager. I would encourage you to use this list when making your decision to accept the position of project manager, program manager, portfolio manager or any position with the title manager.
1. Gather information wisely. Too many of us are removed from the team. We think because we are project managers that we don’t need to lead, we just need to direct. We don’t know the issues or more importantly we don’t know our team members. I am not talking about education, money or the inconsequential stuff. I am talking about whether or not your team members will follow you to where you need them to go. I hear to many times that project managers make uninformed decisions. If you aren’t listening, you will miss the truth of the situation or situations that your team members face every day. Every piece of information, regardless of how small or seemly inconsequential, is important until it is assessed for its applicability and priority.
2. Prepare thoroughly. Read everything. Make an informed decisions. Evaluate every task, every risk, every issue, every change, and the edicts issued from on high. If you aren’t able to defend your team and provide the rationale for the ‘current state of the project’, you aren’t a leader … you are a record keeper. Talk to every team member, listen to their counsel, and defend their right to communicate the way things are not the way someone else wants them to be.
3. Understand what is at stake. If you don’t listen to the team members, they will stop following you. It is all about trust. If they don’t believe that you are going to be the wall of reason between them and the rest of the world, they will stop listening to you, stop being the voice of reason, and at the absolute worst, stop communicating with you.
You should create a vision statement that communicates to them that you understand what is at stake if you fail in your mission as their leader. My vision statement is ‘my role in this project is to facilitate the team’s success‘. If I am doing anything that isn’t in alignment with that vision, tell me and I’ll fix it.
The bottom line is that somewhere between 70 – 90% of projects fail. It depends on the what is measured, when it is measured and whether or not people are openly disclosing the truth. I can tell you honestly that not all projects that I have managed would be considered successful depending on how management measured success, whether or not the company is publicly traded and whether the senior managers were into public humiliation.
In addition to the Guide to the PMBOK(r), I am convinced that every project manager should have to read John Maxwell’s book entitled Failing Forward. Failing isn’t the problem. Wise project leaders understand that failure is how we learn, that lessons come from failure and success and that all lessons have value.