The basic definition of a project is, ‘a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.’ The project environment is very different from that of typical day to day operations or a regular team that performs similar activities on a day to day basis. The fact that a project is temporary has a huge impact on the staff employed within the project in respect of their motivation, their commitment to the work in hand and their loyalty to the project. Projects rarely fail but people do!
The role of the Project Manager is crucial for a successful project, but what qualities does he/she need to ensure effectiveness?
An effective project leader is often described as having a vision of where to go and the ability to articulate it. Visionaries thrive on change and being able to draw new boundaries. It was once said that a leader is someone who ‘lifts us up, gives us a reason for being and gives the vision and spirit to change’. Visionary leaders enable people to feel that they have a real stake in the project. They empower people to experience their vision on their own. They offer people opportunities to create their own vision, to explore what the vision will mean to their jobs and lives, and to envision their future as part of the vision for the organisation.
In all elements of work life the most common complaint about an organisation is ‘lack of communication.’ Project leadership calls for clear communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback. The projects leader is also the team’s link to the larger organisation. The leader must have the ability to effectively negotiate and use persuasion when necessary to ensure the success of the team and project. The PMI (Project Management Institute) suggest a project manager should spend 90 per cent of their time communicating.
Call it honesty, integrity or loyalty. The project manager needs to have them all. His/her actions set an example for the rest of the team members. He/she is ultimately responsible for setting ethical standards for the rest of the team. The project manager should practice what they preach and in turn earn trust.
We tend to follow people with a can-do attitude, not those who are always negative and give us all the reasons for why something can’t be done. Enthusiastic leaders are committed to their goals and express this commitment through optimism. Enthusiasm is contagious and effective leaders know this. A project manager without passion, is one, that is simply put, lacking definition.
Empathy/compassion must not be mistaken for sympathy. Although the words are similar, they are mutually exclusive. Empathy means to understand. A good project manager needs to understand that there is life outside the workplace and that people are not machines without emotions. By doing so he/she will develop a personal relationship with the team members that will serve as a tool for better results.
The team must believe that the project manager knows what he/she is doing. Leadership competence does not however necessarily refer to the project leader’s technical abilities in the core technology of the business. As project management continues to be recognised as a field in and of itself, project leaders will be chosen based on their ability to successfully lead others rather than on technical expertise, as in the past. The ability to challenge, inspire, enable, model and encourage must be demonstrated if leaders are to be seen as capable and competent. It is also essential to recognise when you’re not an expert in a certain field. Project management qualifications are greatly recognised in this day and age and expand a project managers’ knowledge further.
The project manager should be able to delegate with ease. He/she should be able to recognise the skills and expertise of his team members and assign or delegate the tasks according ly to those. Trust is an essential element in the relationship of a project leader and his or her team. You demonstrate your trust in others through your actions – how much you check and control their work, how much you delegate and how much you allow people to participate. Individuals who are unable to trust other people often fail as leaders.
There are times when things do not go as expected. In such cases, the project manager needs to maintain their cool and be composed no matter what level of pressure they are under. A leader with a hardy attitude will take these problems in their stride. When leaders encounter a stressful event, they consider it interesting, they feel they can influence the outcome and they see it as an opportunity.
The project manager needs to be a good team builder. A team builder can best be defined as a strong person who provides the substance that holds the team together in common purpose toward the right objective. The team starts as a group of strangers and needs to be made into a core group of people. Keeping the sense of team spirit alive despite the many problems in the project’s execution, is another crucial quality a project manager should have.
An efficient project manager should be capable of solving any or all problems, either with the team or the project itself. The team members should trust the project manager to solve their problems but also involve the team in problem solving also.
A great project manager not only has to have all of these qualities but also know when to employ them and to what extent.