April 1, 2008 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Leadership
It’s Time to Recognize the Project Manager as a Leader
By Art Petty
The most challenging leadership positions are the informal roles where an individual leads based on his or her credibility and capability without the backing of a formal reporting structure. These positions are often characterized by a high-level or responsibility for results with little direct authority over the people doing the work. The role of Project Manager matches this description perfectly, with organizations increasingly looking to the individuals charged with project or program management to play key roles in executing on strategic priorities.
Unfortunately, in many organizations, the role of Project Manager is inappropriately disconnected from the strategy process and is often viewed and treated by executives as a mid-level or administrative role. This is wrong. Senior executives would be wise to tap into the unique skills, insights and capabilities of the best Project Managers as they look to build out their leadership teams and to propel their organizations faster.
Three Reasons Why Executives Should Start Paying Attention to Project Managers (and Suggestions on Getting Started):
1. Context and Insight are Critical for Leadership Effectiveness—The Project Manager has both.
The Project Manager in a technology or product-development focused organization is one of the few individuals that truly understands just how things get done on a large scale as well as at the detail level. Success in this role requires the ability to see things clearly at all heights: the mile high view and the grass roots perspective.
The Project Manager’s insight transcends his/her view into the mechanics and risks of a particular project and includes a unique perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of teams and individuals, the nature and strength of various working relationships and the effectiveness or dysfunction of communications processes. Want to know what’s working, what’s not and what needs to be done to improve performance, ask a Project Manager.
Change your mental filter on the role of the Project Manager. Recognize that the best Project Managers are the individuals driving execution of your firm’s top priorities. Along with their skills at bringing together and leading disparate groups to successful project completion, these individuals are gaining unique insights into individual and team performance. Recognize that Project Managers are more than schedule jockeys and report generators and leverage them accordingly.
2. Strategy is Executed Through Projects—The Project Manager is Critical to Your Firm’s Success
Most senior executives go to great lengths to be strategically aware. They spend a great deal of time evaluating competitors, striving to understand market forces, and of course, monitoring internal results in pursuit of strategy. However, few executives are able to ever fully comprehend the ability of the organization to execute with the level of clarity of an experienced Project Manager.
An executive looks at project updates, Gantt charts and status reports wondering what created the results. A Project Manager understands where the results came from and why they are what they are. An executive wonders what can be done to improve execution effectiveness, and the Project Manager has already thought this through. The Project Manager’s context and insight are priceless to improving execution effectiveness around strategic priorities.
Involve your Project Managers in the strategic management process. Make certain that planning events include individuals from the Project Management function. Outside of strategy planning meetings, work to ensure that your Project Managers understand your strategy, and provide them a voice in developing execution programs and in improving overall organizational performance.
3. Leadership Talent is a Strategic Asset—Project Managers Represent A Deep Part of Your Emerging Leadership Pool.
The identification, development and retention of leadership talent is critical to an organization’s success in a world that increasingly requires corporations to change overnight and seize new opportunities or respond to emerging threats. Given that the new style of business is increasingly project focused, with distributed and diverse teams coming together, focusing on an issue and disbanding to then reform in another fashion in pursuit of a new issue, informal leadership skills quickly move to the top of the list as mission critical. You cannot teach someone to be an effective leader as much as you can provide opportunities and coaching to help new leaders develop over time. Tapping into the already well-honed leadership skills of Project Managers is a no-brainer.
Expand your leadership talent program to include Project Managers. Ensure that your Project Managers are included in leadership development activities. Establish an Individual Development Plan that identifies career goals and developmental assignments for every Project Manager. Last but not least, include Project Managers in your succession planning activities for formal leaders. Their day job is one of the best in the organization for developing leadership skills. As you identify key formal leadership roles to be filled, your best-qualified candidates may come from the Project Management ranks.
The unique skills, insights and experiences of the Project Manager often go untapped in organizations due to a mistaken perception of their role. We live in a project driven world and your best Project Managers are likely some of your most effective leaders, albeit, without the formal mantle of authority. The Project Manager is also a critical cog in driving strategy execution and is someone that you can look at to pull disparate teams of knowledge workers together under the most difficult of circumstances, to drive results. It’s time to raise your expectations about what these talented professionals are able to offer your organization. The best and brightest of Project Managers thrive on the desire to contribute by leading. Your ability to leverage their talents and their passion for success may be a critical contributor to your own success.
Art Petty is a 24 year experienced marketing and sales executive in business intelligence software, retail automation, life-safety and building automation markets.
Over his many years of leading and building businesses into market leaders, Petty is most proud of the many great professionals that have graced his teams and have gone on to tremendous careers and accomplishments of their own.
Petty’s runs Strategy & Management Innovations, LLC, a management consulting firm serving Business to Business and Technology organizations. He also maintains a professional blog: Art Petty on Management.
No comments yet.