Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with - or even disagree with - leave a comment.

About this Blog


Recent Posts

Fair's Fair

Give Your Project a Home

A Hollywood-Style Move From PM to Scrum Master

To Have and To Hold

Leading With Integrity

Leading With Integrity

Categories: Leadership

A few months ago, I wrote about the essential principles of leadership, and one seemed to have really struck a chord with readers. That principle is integrity. And, as I prepared to write some thoughts on the role of integrity in leadership, several examples of why integrity is so important jumped to mind. 

Take the case of the United States senator accused of plagiarizing his college thesis paper, or the seemingly lenient penalty that the National Football League commissioner laid down on one of the league's stars over a domestic violence incident, when other comparable infractions have drawn much stronger responses. 

What these two situations have in common is a lack of integrity that, on the surface, seems to be driven by taking the easy way out. Integrity is often defined as "doing the right thing when no one is watching." I don't think that is an appropriate enough definition, though. Integrity is the act of doing the right thing, even if it is extremely difficult. 

That being said, here are a few tips on how you can lead your project teams with integrity:

1. Lead honestly. The foundation of leadership and integrity is leading with honesty. You can't tell everyone everything they want to hear all the time and still get things done. Business doesn't work like that and life doesn't work like that. So to be a high-integrity leader, you need to be honest in all cases. As Erika Flora, PMP, PgMP, told me recently, being a leader requires you to "be brutally honest and provide feedback that sometimes people just don't want to hear." You can put this to work by setting clear and realistic expectations of your team, sponsors and stakeholders at the beginning, and not allowing yourself to be tied down to unrealistic expectations just to make everyone happy.

2. Take ownership. I've been in a number of organizations that faced a challenge of ownership in their projects. What that means is people are running around with big titles and the expectation is that those who report to them will jump at their slightest utterance. And as long as everything is moving along according to plan, everything is great. But as soon as the project goes off track, the "leader" is looking to point fingers and place blame to help relieve his or her responsibility. Don't do that. Being a leader and having integrity means you have to take responsibility for your performance and your team's, good or bad. As a leader, you should always start the project by telling your team something along the lines of, "Ultimately, I am responsible for the success or failure of this project, but I can't do it without you."

3. Share the spotlight. To be a strong leader of high integrity, you need to allow your team members to receive some of the glow and adulation that comes with goals achieved, projects delivered that exceed expectations and overall high performance. Allowing your team members to receive this share of the attention will make it much easier for you to get buy-in on tough issues or tricky situations in the future because they'll see you as the kind of manager who allows them to receive recognition. By the same token, when it comes to delivering bad news and accepting criticism, allowing yourself to receive the blame and not looking to share that blame with your team will engender a great deal of goodwill. And never, ever look to use one of your team members as a scapegoat for something that is ultimately your responsibility.

How do you see integrity playing out in your current team?
Posted by Dave Wakeman on: August 26, 2014 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Translation Series: "World-Class Lessons from World Cup Coaches"

Categories: Leadership, Translations

To reach a global audience of project professionals, Voices on Project Management presents a blog post every month translated into Simplified Chinese, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. 

This month's post by Kevin Korterud explores four lessons learned from great leaders: World Cup coaches.

Read it in your language of preference and share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted by Voices Team on: July 24, 2014 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

World-Class Lessons from World Cup Coaches

Categories: Leadership

Voices_Kevin_World Cup.png

Photo: AC Moraes

People around the globe are tuning in to the FIFA World Cup. Even overloaded project managers will manage to find time to watch some of the global football championship coverage and root for their team. 

I can't help but find parallels between what happens on the pitch and some of the challenges we face as project managers. Both successful World Cup coaches and project managers spend a lot of time giving direction to a team to mitigate unexpected events. Here are four lessons to take away from these coaches that could help ensure your project produces winning results in the face of the unforeseen:

1. Set starters and specialists. World Cup coaches know what skills key team members must have to win games. They also have intimate knowledge of their players' skills, capacities, endurance and adaptability to changing conditions. That knowledge allows coaches to pick the players they want to start the game as well as those specialists to enter the field when the key players need support. 

Project managers should also know who the key team members are to have at the start of a project and the specialized resources -- such as subject matter experts on the business or work planners -- needed toward project completion to ensure success. 

2. Be a coach, not a player. One of the more risky tendencies for a coach is to try to teach his own playing expertise to the team members. Yet the best World Cup coaches focus on making the team perform well as a whole, not on providing detailed instruction on ball technique. Specialized coaches (for physical training or goaltending, for example) and fellow team members should provide this detailed level of instruction, leaving the World Cup coach free to direct the overall flow of the game. 

Project managers can do the same by identifying and employing specialized resources that can assist team members with fundamentals, such as writing good requirements and creating work plans. This frees up the project manager to focus on solving risks and issues across the project. 

3. Make sure everyone knows the plays. World Cup coaches go to great lengths to employ existing plays that are a good match for their players. In addition, they spend time creating new plays that can be used in unexpected conditions that can come up during a game. The World Cup coach spends a lot of preparation and practice time with the team making sure the plays are executed in a smooth and efficient manner. 

Project managers can do the same by identifying the right approaches -- that is, methods, processes and tools -- and spending time with the team to practice the execution of these approaches.

4. Provide feedback on results. At the end of every game, World Cup coaches spend time with the team as well as the media, sharing their thoughts on the outcome of the game. In addition, they will frequently share key decisions and outcomes that resulted in a win or loss for the team. World Cup coaches do this in a manner that reflects the overall effort of the team as opposed to the efforts of a few key players. 

Project managers should provide this type of feedback at regular intervals throughout the project, especially during project status meetings. Projects also have the equivalent of media attention in the form of sponsors, so project managers should openly provide the same type of feedback on a regular basis.  

What behaviors and practices have you seen that might help project managers create winning projects?
Posted by Kevin Korterud on: June 25, 2014 09:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Translation Series: "The Non-Negotiables of Leadership"

Categories: Leadership, Translations

To reach a global audience of project professionals, Voices on Project Management presents a blog post every month translated into Simplified Chinese, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. 

This month's post by Dave Wakeman, PMP, discusses three leadership skills that project practitioners should uphold, no matter how difficult a project.

Read it in your language of preference and share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted by Voices Team on: June 03, 2014 10:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Leadership Lifestyle

Categories: Leadership

Recently I wrote about the non-negotiable attributes of leaders. A lot of the feedback I received asked how we can use these skills in our day-to-day jobs, especially when we're encountering a business culture that doesn't always place emphasis on leadership and long-term thinking. Here are a few ways you can begin applying leadership attributes to your projects, even in challenging circumstances.

  1. Build adaptability into your routine. One of the great challenges of project management is conquering the ever-changing project -- the one with a fluid scope, ill-defined objectives and budgets that fluctuate constantly. This is why building adaptability into your daily routine is essential. And it doesn't have to be complicated. One habit you can adopt right away is to start or end your day with a question like, "What has changed in the last 24 hours that will require me to alter my project plan?" By asking that question, you will keep yourself in the center of the project's changing landscape and be able to react in a proactive manner, rather than having change forced upon you.
  2. Accept mistakes -- and their part in innovation. Organizations often talk about wanting innovation, but then turn around and penalize mistakes. And yet you can often only have better judgment -- and develop innovative solutions -- by making mistakes. If you feel your performance is suffering because you're tying yourself down to routine techniques, try this: Go to the sponsor and explain that you've been thinking about a new way to tackle a challenge. Outline the possible outcomes, risks and mitigation plans when you explain that you feel your team needs to try this new technique. Innovation and advances only occur through new thinking and experimentation, so mistakes can and should be encouraged. They are what enable project managers and teams to develop the judgment necessary to make huge leaps forward. 
  3. View integrity as a way of life. When I talk with project managers, executives and leaders, one thing that comes up frequently is the so-called leadership gap. This "gap" has infiltrated our organizations because we've moved to a culture that spends too much time focusing on the next quarter's profits. In a culture like this, it's difficult to act with the vision and integrity that will foster long-term results. As team leaders in our organizations, we all need to understand that integrity isn't a one-time event, but a lifestyle that shines through in everything we do. To put this into practice, it's important that you start speaking up within your organization. If your project's ambitions don't fit the long-term objectives of the organization, you have to be confident enough to point that out. If you feel that actions are being taken that aren't conducive to success, say something. Doing so isn't going to be easy, but being a leader never is. 

Are you -- and your organization -- willing to carry out these tips toward developing leadership skills? 

Take this project management leadership self-assessment to learn where you stand in six leadership areas.
Posted by Dave Wakeman on: May 15, 2014 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

- Mark Twain