Recently, I attended a panel on project management as an audience member. One of the topics that kept coming up was, “What makes a great project manager?” I don’t think the panel ever fully got around to fully answering the heart of the question.
Over the years, my project management style has certainly changed. But when I look back to when and where I was very successful, I can see certain patterns emerge.
Beyond the Mechanics and Taskmaster
If you have ever taken a project management course, or worked on your PMP, you tend to focus on the mechanics of how to manage a project. How to create a scope, a project plan, identifying tasks, navigating process, risk, milestones and deadlines are all things that are taught and learned. Certainly these are skills are important to know, a strong foundation in the basics means you can apply these concepts.
Indeed, knowledge of the mechanics is often one of the key things people look for in a project manager. However, if all you did as a project manager was to apply these concepts religiously, you may find yourself in the role and style of a taskmaster. I think this is where a lot of company’s get it wrong. If you are all business, and driven by tasks, productivity and outcomes, you might find yourself driving people on your team away from working as a team.
I’ll give you an example. I remember when I started at a very well known creative shop. First day on the job, I had a very senior project manager come up to me and announce, “Hi, my name is ______, and I’m a bitch. Get use to it.”
I raised an eyebrow, like I tend to do, and I thought to myself, wow — great first impression, I bet everyone just loves to work with you.
From the outside, upper management thought she was one of the most productive people in the company. And yes, this person got stuff done. This person valued outcomes and this is what management saw, and by providing positive feedback she felt empowered.
So yes, this person got stuff done, but bullied everyone along the way. Did anyone want to work with this individual? No, this empowered person, lacked empathy. While this style may push work through, it wreaked havoc on the creative teams. While this individual may have completed things on time, if you compared this person’s projects with other project managers, you would see some significant differences...