When you are managing a project you are managing a team; you are managing people (until we start managing robots and AI’s!). People are fragile beings that have a performance gauge, which you as the Project Manager can directly influence. Your attitude and actions can allow your team to perform exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly or anywhere in-between.
If you think back to the best project managers/leaders you have had – the ones that have spurred you on to greatness – what traits do they have? Are they the ones who shout at you every morning? Are they the ones that call you names and put you down all the time? NO! As a Project Manager you need to be firm but you also need to show kindness, respect and consideration to the team of people you work with. If you want to inspire greatness in your team, you need to approach them in a considerate manner that builds them up and gives them the confidence they need to do their jobs effectively.
Consideration and Empathy
Showing consideration means stepping into your teams shoes – how would you feel in this particular situation? How would you respond if what you just said or did to your employee was done to you? You need to also understand that just like with anyone, sometimes your personal life can affect your business focus. I think it is really important to get alongside your team when this is happening to allow you to make wise business decisions, like reducing their work load and stress levels and to also offer them any company sponsored help they may be entitled to. Understanding what is going on with your team will allow you to better manage them, the plan and the final quality of the project deliverable.
Being firm without being fierce
Your team are the backbone of the project and are largely responsible for the project’s success. There are times when you need to be firm with team members to ensure work is being done to a high calibre and timelines are met – but you must also remember to be fair at the same time so that your team doesn’t feel at enmity to you. Team members can often feel they are “under fire” from their project manager when there are no clear expectations for them to be held accountable to. Therefore, the best course of action is to be very clear in your expectations right from the onset of the project or project phase and make sure that the team understand and agree to exactly what is expected of them. Therefore, when bringing the project and team back in line with expectations it won’t seem like you are being unfair at all – you are just realigning the project to what was already agreed upon. This will greatly reduce any contention that could build up in the team when they are pushed in a direction that they weren’t expecting.
The same method can be used when dealing with clients by ensuring everyone understands and agrees to a clear scope for the project. I recommend that you ensure that you keep track of key decisions made in meeting minutes or via email so that you can refer back to them if anything is raised by the client. This will give you a paper trail back up of their agreement that supports your firm stance, which is a very powerful tool to have at your disposal.
There will be things you miss when setting expectations with your team and agreeing scope with your client. It happens, and so does change. A project is dynamic and constantly moving forward, there is bound to be change. As soon as expectations/scope changes or new expectations/scope are identified, get back on track and re-baseline your expectations/scope and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Clarity and Honesty
Communicate based on clarity and honesty and not based on trying to make your team or client like you. At the end of the day, honesty is the best policy. Sometimes the truth can be difficult to deliver or can make your life a bit harder but both your reputation and the trust your client/team put in you can be shattered so easily when you beat around the bush or you try and hide something.
I remember a friend once telling me that he had been asked to not disclose all the bugs that were raised in internal testing by his manager as the project didn’t have the budget to resolve all the bugs that were uncovered in the software. The following week the team demonstrated the application to the client but the client insisted on driving the demo and found some of these bugs. This gave the company a bad reputation because, clearly their testing hadn’t uncovered these bugs and they could not be trusted to deliver what was asked of them. In this kind of situation it is imperative that you are honest with your client. If you don’t have the budget to fix all the bugs, what can be fixed? Is there a priority that the client can give you in terms of what bugs they would prefer to be fixed first? When you are honest with your client, they will trust you and will therefore be more willing to compromise when things don’t go well.
A project manager who takes the time to acknowledge the hard work of the team will build trust and a positive attitude in the team. If you see team members doing it right, following internal processes, showing great autonomy and comradery – call it out.
Publilius Syrus said, “Admonish your friends privately, but praise them openly.”
Lead by example
As the Project Manager, your team will look to you to set the tone for the project. You make the decisions on how the project is run and how the team work together to accomplish the project goals. If you want your team to work well together, they need to get along and they need a leader who will be an example as to how it should be done.
So how is it going for you this week? Are there any attitudes you feel you could improve on? Are there any useful tools you have in your belt to allow you to exercise and monitor the attitudes described above?