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Project Leadership vs. Project Management

Being a project manager has been a very rewarding experience for me over the last 15+ years. Whether practicing the science of project management, learning about it, writing about it or talking/tweeting about it, I have truly enjoyed almost every aspect of it.

I see a transformation coming, however, and no, I’m not talking about Agile vs. Waterfall or the newest release of the PMBoK. The transformation I am witnessing is a movement to project leadership.

The science of managing projects is fairly straight forward.  No, I did not say easy, with good reason. Project management requires a specific set of skills and talents to take a project from conception to close within a specific timeframe and budget. Practicing the art project leadership, however, goes much deeper, into the realm of relationships. If you dig in and form solid, working relationships with your team, you will allow them to be rewarded as much as you are.

Consider these attributes:

  • Give all the credit: It is critical to remember that you are the project leader, not the team. Your team is who is doing the work. Your team has the expertise. Give them high praises when they do well. Praise individuals, praise small groups, and praise the entire team, and praise publicly.
  • Take the blame: Troubles are going to happen; it is a given when it comes to projects – regardless of what they are. Budgetary items will come in higher than expected, delays in the schedule are going to occur, and quality may come in sub-par. Don’t throw Bill under the bus for that typo in the code, or Jack for misunderstanding the requirements, or Sally, who forgot to get a quote on a critical piece of infrastructure. When reporting, state the facts – but leave names out of it. When asked, put yourself in as a shield between management and the team. By doing so, you will build and environment of trust, not only with your team, but with management as well.

Don’t get me wrong; if a correction needs to be made, don’t wast the opportunity for a teachable moment.

  • Equip Them: Your team already has a tough job. Each team member was brought in because they have a specific skill-set that is necessary to fulfill the requirements. As a project leader, you need to do everything you can to make sure the team has the tools they need in order to fulfill their duties. We’ve all heard the phrase “the right tool for the right job.” That saying goes beyond building a house or working on a car. Having the proper software, adequate hardware, the right saws, a working micrometer, is all critical to the success of any team. If you fight for your team to make sure they have what they need, they will perform well; not only because they have the proper tools, but because they want to! Even if you can’t get everything they need, they will work harder for you because they know you are on their side.

This is only scratching the surface. What other qualities do you think would be great project leadership traits?

This post was originally posted to my LinkedIn Pulse page. It has been modified and updated for this site.

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