READ TIME: 4 minutes
It is week five of my exploration into the question, “What is a project manager?” In previous weeks, I discussed all of the ‘P,’ ‘R,’ ‘O,’ and ‘J’ nouns used to describe a project manager.
This week, ‘E’ nouns will be discussed. Again, this discussion does not encompass all that a project manager can be, but it delves into the core and creates discussion.
Let’s get started with part five.
In other words, you are unconventional, outlandish, and extraordinary. How many times have you been told to think outside the box? Great ideas sprout from unconventional thinking and dreaming big.
Being an eccentric naturally gives way to this outside the box approach. You are bringing your originality and individuality to the workplace. A team should be homogeneous in action but not in thought. Diverse in thought creates results from conflict.
Each team member’s eccentrics build off of one another. Having rules and procedures is a great start, but allow your team to work within those parameters as they so choose. Trying to control and micromanage frustrates individuals. Let their and your eccentric side flow out.
Project managers need to echo senior leadership. If an initiative is going to work, there must be buy-in from top to bottom. A project manager is closer to the top on that organizational chart. You must echo the sentiments of senior leaders.
Building trust amongst your team helps to perform this duty. If the team believes you, the initiative will be easier to see through to the end. If you have delivered this message over and over again with little to show for it, that trend will continue.
A project manager not only echoes the message from senior leadership but also from project owners and sponsors. You are delivering them a product or service that needs to meet their expectations. The only way you and your team can successfully create is to echo their demands.
Education is important to your team and yourself. If you are a certified project management professional, continued learning is part of keeping your credential active. Knowing the past helps to limit future mistakes. Building the future through cutting-edge technology and tactics can be as important.
Remaining proactive in your education makes a huge difference. I remember teachers in school telling the class not to use sources older than five years. This parameter kept the information used as current as possible. Think of how often industries change. Access to information is at an all-time high. A simple internet search results in thousands of articles, journals, studies, and so on.
Pass this information along to your team. The information does not always have to be project related either. Make sure the team is up to date on the latest industry or organization news. Being kept in the dark leads to speculations far and wide.
Just like an elevator takes people to higher floors of a building, you should be taking your team to new heights. Increase expectations to challenge the status quo. Try to make a good year great. Attempt to break even after starting the project in the red.
Part of being an elevator involves quantifying the levels. If you are staying in room 303, you get off the elevator on floor three. Those numbers are necessary for reaching your goal of getting to your room. The same goes for your project team. Give them numbers to define their targets better. This goal setting will help determine a path to easier reach their goals.
‘Next level’ is not a number. It a buzz term used by senior managers. It sounds good amongst a group but has little or no meaning. Give ‘next level’ meaning by laying out the terms. 5% increase in revenues, 10% reduction in costs, and 3% less maintenance on equipment are all examples of getting your team to the next level.
Mistakes happen. Errors go unnoticed. Regrettable phone calls are made. A project manager may have to erase these mistakes by making good with the party most damaged.
There was a time when I produced aggregate that was tested by the Departement of Transportation. Come to find out, this material did not need to be tested, and the general contractor was furious. They spent the money to have the material tested when it was unnecessary.
Their project manager called and demanded a solution. In the end, some material from a different pile was given to them for no cost to make up the difference. Problem erased.
Being an evaluator goes back to creating quantifiable numbers to compare productions. An estimate before the project gives numbers the team must match. As a project manager, you must evaluate your team based on those figures.
If they are underachieving, why? What changes need to be made? Is it one person bottlenecking the system or is the system bearing the blame?
If the team is overachieving, why? Do the estimates for future projects need to be more aggressive? Is it a matter of the stars aligning and everything going as planned?
Evaluators are always asking questions to better the system in place. They see what works and what does not work. They find ways around the obstacles in front of them.
A project manager is an extension of senior leadership and project owners/sponsors. Senior leadership has a direction in mind which is why they took on a project. The project manager must be aware of this direction and run the project in agreement with said direction.
The project manager must also relay the demands and requirements of the owners and sponsors of a project. They are the ones in charge. If they leave dissatisfied, your job is not complete.
You are also the extension of the team. If you come to an agreement amongst yourselves, you are the one putting your neck on the line and stating the decision.
These multiple extensions and roles are what a project manager’s job difficult. You have many hats to wear throughout the day, and not everyone is going home happy.
Of the nouns I listed, educator is the most important. Educating yourself makes you the best project manager. Educating your team makes them more involved creating a better atmosphere to succeed. As a project manager, you have information others need to do their jobs. If you do not, you seek out this information to pass on to others. A project manager should always be learning, whether it is project, organization, or individual information.
What 'E' nouns come to your mind to describe a project manager's role?