Think about your most recent purchase. Did you choose a particular brand over another? Did you make this choice based on your previous experience with that brand in terms of cost, quality, consistency, ease of use? Maybe the brand fits with your lifestyle or values? Brand acts as a signal to consumers, and in turn, our brand choices reveal part of ourselves to those around us. Your personal leadership brand is no different. Developing and sharing your leadership brand lets your team and colleagues know who you are, what you stand for, and how you work. Read on to learn how to create your own personal leadership brand for project and career success...
I'm not absolutely certain about this so I won't make any guarantees. But I can say -- without a doubt -- that nice guys do NOT finish last. The quote, “Nice guys finish last” has been attributed to Los Angeles Dodgers manager Leo Durocher for more nearly 70 years. In actuality, it may be a paraphrased version of an interview he did on July 6, 1946, but basically the phrase is his.
So what do you think…do nice guys finish last? I’ve tried to be a nice guy throughout most of my professional career and I don’t think I’ve finished last. And as I consider those I’ve worked with over the years, most of the nice guys (and women) have done pretty well. Yes, a few hardcore jerks have definitely excelled (“the squeaky wheel gets the grease”), but the nice guys have -- in the long run -- faired better, in my opinion. From a project management or even general business standpoint, here are my top 5 reasons why I think nice guys actually finish first...
Starting a project with a clean slate, for me, is far more desirable than taking over an ongoing project and being forced to take over where another project manager has screwed things up and was removed from. You can save the day, yes, but you may also be walking into an irreversible mess. At the very least, you may be taking over a project schedule that makes no sense to you, or to anyone for that matter. I have been there and usually take the remainder of the schedule and work it out my way.
Now, I'm not saying the alternative, taking the project from the very beginning, is a piece of cake. It isn't, and that is what this article is about: that paralysis one feels when trying to get the schedule in order and everything properly in place to get started. You want it to be right, you don't want to look foolish by leaving something "obvious" out, and you want it to make sense for everyone. It can sort of be like the young married couple waiting until the timing is right to start a family. If you look at it from too many different ways, the timing will never be right, and you'll go through iteration after iteration trying to make it "right," or at least to feel "right." Sometimes, you just have to take the plunge.
My wife knows better than to trust me to go into a coffee shop and order beverages - be they hot or cold - and get the order right. Or at least to her liking. But somehow she still trusts me. Even though she knows I can easily get lost in malls and I didn't really drink coffee drinks of any kind until just a few years ago. Still, she somehow trusts me and pushes me to give it a try with the confidence that I will get it right this time.
As project managers, we have to do the same with less experienced project team members. If we don't, they will never learn or grow professionally. I've learned this lesson slowly as a father of ten kids. I have to stop doing for them and instead instruct them and watch them fail sometimes and then begin to succeed more and more often and build confidence...just as my wife has done with me. (Maybe that means she has eleven kids!)
What does project stakeholder mean to you? Someone who is interested in your project? Someone with a financial stake? The sponsor? Your team? The term ‘Stakeholder’ is an extremely common term in project management. According to Wikipedia, project stakeholders are “individuals and organizations that are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be affected as a result of project execution or project completion. They may also exert influence over the project's objectives and outcomes.”
Although you can probably find a wide variety of definitions for the term, it all comes down to one common thread – they care about your project in one way or another. Below are several of the more widely accepted ways or reasons these stakeholders care about your project….
Wondering why the topic of ‘project management’ came to me today? Good guess…because today is one of those days that I don’t want to lead. I don’t want to be in charge. I don’t even really want to be the parent today. Thankfully, that is always temporary and usually only when I am sick or very sleep deprived or both – which is the case today.
What about the project management role? Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought, “today I don’t feel like leading…I just want to follow.” Come on…you know it’s happened at least a couple of times and it’s ok to admit it. The problem is, as the project manager, you do still have to lead. But it doesn’t always have to be hard. In fact, the more you focus on best practices routinely in your project management leadership roles, the less chaotic that leadership will be and the less burdensome that leadership will seem.
Your customer is critical. And from most project managers’ perspectives, that is the person sitting across from him at the table or the one on the other end of the phone on the status call. That’s right… that is the customer. But what about the customer’s ultimate end user? Where do they fit in? When is the end user part of the project? On many projects the end user is the one who needs the solution.
I ran across this quote and it troubles me – partly because it is often true and because we are all guilty sometimes of overlooking end users as a central point of reference and information for the project. Here it is… “A user is somebody who tells you what they want the day you give them what they asked for.” This can be taken to mean that the user often does a poor job telling us at first what they want and the gives us a better definition once the project is over and the solution doesn’t really meet their needs.
It would be fun to do a search on this phrase and have your own picture pop up. Mine does not. Neither does yours. But this article isn’t meant to single out who is the greatest project manager of all-time. Though I’m taking suggestions and nominations with first names starting with “B”. The purpose here is to consider what makes a project manager great.
Being the best
We want to be the best – strive to be the best. Most of us do, anyway. And most of those that don’t eventually get weeded out – thankfully – into other professions. The concept of being the best takes me back to my first professional career-type job and my manager told me how when he wrote his first program it compiled right the first time…no errors. I believed him at the time…looking back now I’m not so sure. He’s retired now but still a Facebook friend so I’ll let him comment if he dares. But what I’m getting at is this….right out of college that, to me, was a characteristic of possibly being the best developer ever. No errors coding the first time through. Wow.
In Part 2 of this two part series on signs leadership may be missing from a project, we’ll look at five more indicators – in no particular order of importance. The idea is if you recognize any of these…either run or fix them…quickly.
Team members are trying to be heroic. That is, they try to do everything themselves and be all things to all people. They eventually start to over control and in the end, as many experienced project managers know, control very little, even themselves. They fail, for example, to delegate.
Leadership, not just project management, is critical on all projects. Whether it comes just from the project manager – where it must be prevalent – or from others on the project team … leadership is very important.
And by leadership, of course, I mean true leadership. Not somebody to lead meetings, produce status reports, update the project schedule and send off a few emails every week. No, I mean true leadership. Make key decisions. Lead a skilled team. Engage the client. Negotiation strategic issues. Handle key financial situations. Network and connect as needed for the project. True leadership.