In modern-day organizations Project Management (PM) is quite an exciting vocation, appealing to the sort of people who thrive on the challenge of creating something new and who relish the opportunity to exert control over what, to the average person, might appear to be the random set of activities and tasks.
The role and responsibilities of a traditional Project Manager will typically include setting up a framework for the project’s activities, identifying the necessary resources and setting up the working team, negotiating with stakeholders, coordinating activities, keeping work and the team on track while making sure everyone contributes and benefits, mediating conflicts, and making sure the project is delivered on time and on budget.
What’s rather interesting about Project Managers, though, is that the people who hire them tend to put more value on their technical expertise rather than on their soft-skills, neglecting the importance of the P(eople) factor in the Project Management equation.
It is indeed this peculiar factor that distinguishes a good Project Manager from a great one. A good Project Manager will look forward to setting up a high-performing team to help him/her deliver the project in scope and, once the job is done, moving on to the next challenge.
On the other hand, great Project Managers have strong people managing and team leading skills, recognizing that building a team quickly will not suffice, and that taking this team through the different phases of its development in the shortest time possible is also crucial. This will allow for the team members to reach a common sense of purpose and to have a vision of how to get to the end result.
Great Project Managers know that, in order to meet their project objectives, they need to get the right people on board and that these people must have a clear understanding of their roles. This requires an attention shift to the people in the team – their personalities, approaches and potential for synergies within the team – with the aim of improving efficiency and cutting down effort. Also, as the team undergoes a development lifecycle, each individual within the team may find himself/herself in a different stage in terms of skills, experience and contribution. Similarly, Project Managers will have to adapt their situational leadership on an individual/team basis to ensure that the team work reaches the highest performance.
Thus, apart from the traditional responsibilities, Project Managers must call attention to the following key people-related roles and be:
- Initiators – instead of telling people what to do, they draw attention to actions that must be taken for the team goals to be accomplished;
- Negotiators – they get what they need from resource providers by setting up the project framework to benefit both parties;
- Role models – they use their own behavior to shape the team members’ performance. They are aware that leading by example is the only way for people to follow, and potentially grow into future leaders;
- Listeners – they have that almost intrinsic quality to spot signals of forthcoming trouble, employee dissatisfaction and opportunities to make the most of every situation;
- Coaches – they always find ways to bring out the best in their team members, maximizing their potential and achievements;
- Working members – in addition to providing direction, Project Managers must (offer to) do a share of the work, not only to share their experience and expertise, but in order to be perceived as part of the team.
The heart of any project, and the true engine that sets its work in motion, is its membership and the sense of belonging. That’s why bringing together the right people is of extreme importance. Even though when selecting a team the skills needed to accomplish the work should govern, a Project Manager should bear in mind that getting all the know-how without providing some guiding is unlikely. Among the main things to consider are not only the areas of proficiency, such as technical skills in a specific discipline, problem-solving, analyzing and effective reporting skills, but also interpersonal skills. The ability to collaborate effectively with others along with other interpersonal skills, such as networking and relationship-building at all levels, should be a must in this respect.
Great Project Managers make the most of the talent available and take steps to minimize the weaknesses in their group. They see and act upon such weaknesses as opportunities for improvement. When they look for people, they don’t only seek the valued skills, but most importantly their potential and eagerness to learn new ones.
All in all, what’s worth pointing out is that the “P” in Project Management is as much about People as it is about Projects themselves. The traits of a great Project Manager are not far different from the ones people look for in a leader – a charismatic and visionary person who sees the bigger picture, creates a sense of stability and recognizes that communication and relationship-building are the real artwork of leadership.
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