Successful project managers require support from their teams. However, this support cannot be delegated or simply wished into existence. Acquiring the authority to effectively lead a team demands a specific approach.
A project leader must be humble at times and assertive in others, and know when to take charge of a situation and when to delegate roles to members of his or her team. A big part of succeeding at that is in effectively building influence, often with team members who are not direct employees of the project manager. Many fail to understand this aspect and walk into project management assuming the role of infallible leader, often inspiring heavy resistance and strained accomplishments.
The guidelines below represent how to properly build influence and establish the authority of a project manager. These are ongoing practices that should organize how instructions and interactions with team members should take place at all times.
Know Where to Partition Labor
Understanding when to delegate authority is an important aspect of leadership. By knowing a team's strengths and weaknesses, a project manager will be able to pass along tasks and decisions for the team members and improve overall efficiency. By doling out responsibility, not only is time saved but everyone on the team becomes more productive.
When delegating, it's important to understand exactly when and to whom power can be entrusted. Not everyone is cut out for a management role, and some are much happier with strict oversight rather than free reign.
Just because a person is excellent at sales, for instance, doesn't mean he or she can manage. And, if a project manager doesn’t keep a careful eye on the individual, the project can lose significant ground. The delayed processes of the sales cycle may not display issues for up to a year or more, resulting in an expanse of lost time, resources and opportunity.
In order to avoid mistaken delegation, try assigning small tasks at first. Have the individual develop a plan, send him or her to do the work, and then evaluate the performance along the way. As the individual improves, increase the task load and/or the complexity of each assignment.
Delegating work will ease the overall burden, but it will also encourage those within the team to work toward a valued end goal and put their trust in the project manager.
Manage by Example
The moment a project manager acts in contrast to his or her own advice is the moment that they lose all credibility. Project managers who truly want the team to respect them and subscribe to their suggestions, must wholeheartedly support their own decisions and back them up with actions.
The most effective way to earn authority is to be a project leader that others want to follow. Be on time. Be kind and considerate. Be efficient with tasks. Be organized. Be fair with others. Set an example for others to follow.
Communication will always be one of the most vital qualities for effective project management. Developing relationships with team members is critical, and project managers should work to exhibit their true personalities and gain the trust of all coworkers. Effective communication can never be achieved through short emails, incessant demands, or brief interactions; relationships are slowly developed through consistent interaction and honest behavior.
Poor communication has the ability to devastate a project. When NASA lost its Mars orbiter, it was due to the fact that two teams had failed to communicate on the project. One team built the device to metric specifications and the other used inches. This might be an extreme example, but effective communication could have easily solved this $327 million blunder.
When communicating, a project manager should not just assume the role of talker. It is absolutely critical to listen to all team members. Listen, learn and earn the team's respect by valuing members’ input and giving credit where it's due. This will help alleviate any resentment and facilitate collaboration among the group.
Self-maintenance encompasses everything from furthering project management education to working on health. For a project manager to gain respect and enhance authority, he or she must have the knowledge and the capacity to be a true leader. If a team sees its leader as ill-informed, it will be less likely to trust the leader’s judgment. If a project manager cannot perform, the team will be uninspired.
There are incredible resources that can be accessed by enrolling in Web seminars, attending classes or joining a local Project Management Institute chapter. These resources will not only make a project manager’s job easier, but will help the PM to demonstrate their competence to those on the team.
The matter of health may seem a bit trivial but it can be surprisingly important. In 2007, an article in The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine titled “Health and Productivity as a Business Strategy” reported that health-related productivity costs were more than four times the costs of treating those health problems. In other words, taking the time to ensure good health can have enormous benefits for the workplace.
In the end, all anyone has is their honor; project managers should never let themselves be corrupted by feelings of entitlement. To be a great leader, it is important to acknowledge principles and stick to them. Project managers with strong convictions will be respected by others and can feel pleased with what they have accomplished. Good project managers need to believe in themselves, believe in others and believe in their actions. Even if mistakes are made, the project manager can be satisfied with the fact that he or she made those mistakes with the right intentions.
As a project manager, it can be difficult to organize a team. However, accepting these practices can greatly improve any team’s effectiveness. Always remember that a project manager is not in charge of everyone on the team, but rather is a team leader who can either direct a project to success or confront difficulties at every stage. The simple process of being respectful and fair in all decisions can easily keep every member of the team on the same page.
These practices should make it easier for project managers to complete their projects on time and up to quality. If nothing else, they can leave work content, knowing that they have done the job as well as it could have been done.
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