Colleen Garton is the author of "Fundamentals of Technology Project Management" and "Managing Without Walls". She is also the founder of Garton Consulting Group.
Happy project teams are not those with the least problems to solve, but those that are best empowered to solve problems
Many project managers go wrong because they direct too much of the ‘how’ rather than assigning the ‘what’ and letting each person figure out the ‘how’ on their own. A leader’s role is to develop and grow strong teams so the strengths of the organization are multiplied by the number of people employed by it. If the leader tries to make all the decisions and direct every single action, the employees’ strengths will never be developed or utilized. It is waste of good talent. Another typical mistake is that project managers take a reactive approach to management rather than a proactive approach. Risk, contingency and mitigation planning is never wasted time. It enables plans to be put into action quickly and efficiently in the event of a problem and helps avoid frenzied fire-fighting and panic. Taking a reactive approach results in a stressed-out manager and team every time a problem is encountered – which is almost every day on a project team! Happy project teams are not those with the least problems to solve; they are the teams that are best empowered to solve problems (even catastrophic ones) calmly and methodically. – Colleen Garton, author of “Fundamentals of Technology Project Management” and “Managing Without Walls”.
Each new financial crisis shakes things up
During each economic crisis companies are forced to take a look at where they can be more efficient. It can be a painful process but it also halts complacency and wasteful business practices in their tracks. During the dotcom boom-years many organizations did not even have experienced project managers. They let anyone manage projects or just let technical folks manage themselves.
The crash changed all that. Project management became a real profession. Processes and best practices were no longer things to be sneered at with a “We don’t need that nonsense here” attitude. Each new financial crisis that comes along shakes things up: People lose their jobs, money gets tight, and employee perks are lost. However, it is also like hitting an efficiency “reset” button. Organizations are forced to be more efficient, to make better business decisions, to think before they spend or act. This is not a bad thing. – Colleen Garton, author of “Fundamentals of Technology Project Management” and “Managing Without Walls”.
Innovation requires you to break the rules
In reality, not everyone will become a leader. Being a leader takes humility, genuineness and the willingness to let go of control. Some people will never be comfortable letting go of control. When you stop controlling outcomes it means that others can fail and their failures will reflect on you. Leadership is not just about basking in the glory of success; it is also about justifying actions that lead to setbacks or failures. If you believe in what your team is doing, you will be able to justify actions and results successfully. If you have to know the exact outcome of every single thing, you may become a fairly good manager (to people who need a lot of direction) but you will not be a leader. Depending on what industry you are in, management skills may be more important than leadership skills. In some industries, having strict rules and demanding that they are followed at all times is a necessity. A software innovator would not thrive in such a rules-driven environment. Innovation requires breaking all the rules and approaching design from different and sometime bizarre perspectives. – Colleen Garton, author of “Fundamentals of Technology Project Management” and “Managing Without Walls”.
Support others to be the best they can be
Unfortunately, most project management training includes very little people skills development. You can’t replace soft skills with spreadsheets but many project managers try to do so because they are not sure how else to manage problems. This is also the root cause of micromanagement and people not being given the time to experiment and develop new skills. If you always assign tasks to the people who already know how to do them, how will your less experienced team members ever gain the experience they need to excel? People management means trusting people to do things their way, even if it takes longer than if you did it yourself. A leader’s job isn’t to be better than everyone else; it is to support others to be the best they can be.
To learn how to be a good leader you have to learn how to be a people person. You can’t learn it from developing a spreadsheet or reading a book. You have to believe in people. You have to be brave and let go of control so that you can truly become a people centric manager/leader and those you are leading can develop their full potential in their own way. You have to start asking questions and really listening to the answers. Not just hearing what you want to hear. Not dismissing the things you don’t think are realistic or acceptable. Not arguing or contradicting what others tell you. Listening and understanding. Not everyone is the same as you, and your way may not be the best way. The way to lead is to learn every day from those you are leading. Accept that their way is different but not necessarily inferior to yours. Be a role model. Act the way you want your team to act. Treat others with respect – all the time, and don’t bad mouth other departments, clients or management. Imagine yourself in their shoes before you judge them. Being able to experience the world the same way as others is what enables you to understand and connect with them. If you can’t do this, how can you lead them? Be positive and empower people so they can follow you in their own way. Let them use their own roadmaps. Why should they have to follow yours? As long as they end up in the right place at the right time, it doesn’t matter if they took a different route. – Colleen Garton, author of “Fundamentals of Technology Project Management” and “Managing Without Walls”.
Focus on People
Project Leaders primarily take a “people first” approach to management but have the ability to switch to a task oriented approach when necessary, for example during a critical situation. They are not overly focused on tasks but focus on developing people and giving them what they need to complete their assigned tasks successfully. –Colleen Garton, author of “Fundamentals of Technology Project Management” and “Managing Without Walls”.