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How do you deal with Cowboy attitude?
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At some point in our careers, all PMs must have dealt with a colleague, specially in Functional or Weak Matrix orgs that can be best described as the Cowboy of the old Wild West.

Typical behavior includes complete disregard of the processes (law of the land), doing things their own way (which of course they are great at), by-passing all channels to get what they need, choose to show up for meetings when they want to (or not at all) and the list goes on.

Well... You already have the picture of that person in your mind.. don't you?

Question is, as the new Sheriff in town, how do you effectively deal with such personalities so that they are held accountable and get on-board like the rest of the team? (HINT: escalating to his/her manager or HR is not an option).
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If he does his work even if disregards processes then you should not worry about. Sometimes project management processes including the long meetings slow down workers.

If you think he does not perform his work properly then his line manager would be held accountable so again there is no reason for you to worry as long as you notify the stakeholders.

As a PM as a general rule you are not the boss so when you are not the boss it is not a good idea to try to behave like one.

Many times some project team members are more senior than the PMs so you have absolutely no chance to lead them. I imagine that this is also the case here so there is not much you can do about it rather then try to adapt.
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2 replies by Curt McClam and Steve Matthews
Sep 07, 2018 12:50 PM
Steve Matthews
...
To clarify, I do not 'vote' for your response. That was a miss-click. Quite frankly your response sounds much like a Cowboy defending his way - The end justifies the means. A PM has the ultimate responsibility for guiding the team and project to a successful solution so, in fact, is the boss. As a PM I solicit input from all of my team members (many heads are better than one), but then I make the decisions and expect the team to follow them. If one of my team members wants to do it their way, I will consult with them privately to understand their motivations, and to help them understand mine. If this does not change the behaviour, then I will make a change in the team.
Sep 17, 2018 4:53 PM
Curt McClam
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As program manager who has responsibility for meeting the project objectives including building and managing the team, managing finances and managing project scope, I am the manager. As the manager, I do NOT have to deal with disruptive individuals and will have them removed from my team. I am not sure what kind of PM you are with no authority but it sounds like you're acting more in the role of a project assistant. And to those who don't think escalations can work due to relationships I will say this, effective escalations are part of your job and you need to enlist your manager and your manager's manager if that is what it takes to get rid of a disrupter.
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Escalating is definitely not an option. Here is what I would do:

1- Talk to him or her in person and privately. Explain what they are doing vs. what they should be doing and be clear about the key points.

2- If no improvement, then verbal warning followed by a written warning.

If that all did not work then you escalate and relocate him / her if possible because at some point their attitude will affect the team.
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1 reply by Murtaza Sheikh
Sep 07, 2018 1:36 PM
Murtaza Sheikh
...
Thanks Rami - Just on your 2nd point, the premise is Weak matrix organizations. PM(s) have no authority to issue written or verbal warnings.

I can see how that's the right way to go in strong matrix (and up) or within established PMOs.
Network:96



Sep 07, 2018 11:55 AM
Replying to Adrian Carlogea
...
If he does his work even if disregards processes then you should not worry about. Sometimes project management processes including the long meetings slow down workers.

If you think he does not perform his work properly then his line manager would be held accountable so again there is no reason for you to worry as long as you notify the stakeholders.

As a PM as a general rule you are not the boss so when you are not the boss it is not a good idea to try to behave like one.

Many times some project team members are more senior than the PMs so you have absolutely no chance to lead them. I imagine that this is also the case here so there is not much you can do about it rather then try to adapt.
To clarify, I do not 'vote' for your response. That was a miss-click. Quite frankly your response sounds much like a Cowboy defending his way - The end justifies the means. A PM has the ultimate responsibility for guiding the team and project to a successful solution so, in fact, is the boss. As a PM I solicit input from all of my team members (many heads are better than one), but then I make the decisions and expect the team to follow them. If one of my team members wants to do it their way, I will consult with them privately to understand their motivations, and to help them understand mine. If this does not change the behaviour, then I will make a change in the team.
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2 replies by Adrian Carlogea and Rami Kaibni
Sep 07, 2018 12:53 PM
Rami Kaibni
...
Totally - I very much agree with your approach Steve.
Sep 07, 2018 1:12 PM
Adrian Carlogea
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Many PMs don't have the authority to do what you say you would do. In fact many of them must work with team members that are more senior than them. In some rare occasions even the functional managers could work as project team members as they are SMEs.

If the PMs had been bosses then @Murtaza would have fixed the problem by himself and would have not asked for help here.

Many PMs have to work in these conditions and don't have the means to solve this kind of problems in the manner suggested by some people. @Damians suggestions for instance are more realistic for this situation. I imagine that Murtaza would have replaced the "Cowboy" team member if he had the power to do so.
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Assess the person weakness and strength from that I would assign tasks to this individual and place some level of responsibility which requires feedback to the supervisor. Because of the lawless attitude task assignments should be in piecemeal to control the outcome using careful damage control techniques. Increase the rapport with same and encourage frequent feedback of the activity progress. I have found that individuals with this type of attitude doesn't like to be micro managed. Therefore autonomy must be encouraged at all level to reduce or tone the attitude.
Network:98541



Sep 07, 2018 12:50 PM
Replying to Steve Matthews
...
To clarify, I do not 'vote' for your response. That was a miss-click. Quite frankly your response sounds much like a Cowboy defending his way - The end justifies the means. A PM has the ultimate responsibility for guiding the team and project to a successful solution so, in fact, is the boss. As a PM I solicit input from all of my team members (many heads are better than one), but then I make the decisions and expect the team to follow them. If one of my team members wants to do it their way, I will consult with them privately to understand their motivations, and to help them understand mine. If this does not change the behaviour, then I will make a change in the team.
Totally - I very much agree with your approach Steve.
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1 reply by Kevin Langley
Sep 07, 2018 2:47 PM
Kevin Langley
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Rami and Steve - Great points to both. Their is a certain amount of buy-in that needs to be built, but in the end, the process is the process. Anarchy doesn't result in on time, under budget delivery. Sometimes, you have to make a change in the team.
Network:864



Constructive confrontation is the best option.
Appreciate the person for what he is good at.
Then, you can get to the point and tell what he needs to improve.
If your constructive confrontation is effective enough, surely there will be a positive outcome.
But generally people do not change at once.
You may have to be patient with him for a while.
Network:88



Sep 07, 2018 12:50 PM
Replying to Steve Matthews
...
To clarify, I do not 'vote' for your response. That was a miss-click. Quite frankly your response sounds much like a Cowboy defending his way - The end justifies the means. A PM has the ultimate responsibility for guiding the team and project to a successful solution so, in fact, is the boss. As a PM I solicit input from all of my team members (many heads are better than one), but then I make the decisions and expect the team to follow them. If one of my team members wants to do it their way, I will consult with them privately to understand their motivations, and to help them understand mine. If this does not change the behaviour, then I will make a change in the team.
Many PMs don't have the authority to do what you say you would do. In fact many of them must work with team members that are more senior than them. In some rare occasions even the functional managers could work as project team members as they are SMEs.

If the PMs had been bosses then @Murtaza would have fixed the problem by himself and would have not asked for help here.

Many PMs have to work in these conditions and don't have the means to solve this kind of problems in the manner suggested by some people. @Damians suggestions for instance are more realistic for this situation. I imagine that Murtaza would have replaced the "Cowboy" team member if he had the power to do so.
...
2 replies by Murtaza Sheikh and Rami Kaibni
Sep 07, 2018 1:15 PM
Rami Kaibni
...
Although, for the most part, I also disagree with what you've mentioned, I just have one comment:

A Project Manager is not a boos, that is true. The word boss is heaving on the ears - PM's are leaders and with their soft skills and influence, they can manage their team effectively and efficiently.
Sep 07, 2018 1:33 PM
Murtaza Sheikh
...
The premise is of importance here and that's why i prefaced the question with "weak matrix or functional" environment and we know that means PMs have very little authority in this case.

Confrontation may be the best answer on PMP exam but in practice it can sometimes backfire if there are no checks and balances over these cowboys (fact in my case).

It can also be related to another recurring theme we all have heard .. being the red tape or the 2nd boss syndrome, which is something easier to navigate with those who are willing to give you a chance but Cowboys already have their mind made up and no matter what value proposition you have, they continue to be cowboys and in worst cases have the contagious effect on others too.
Network:98541



Sep 07, 2018 1:12 PM
Replying to Adrian Carlogea
...
Many PMs don't have the authority to do what you say you would do. In fact many of them must work with team members that are more senior than them. In some rare occasions even the functional managers could work as project team members as they are SMEs.

If the PMs had been bosses then @Murtaza would have fixed the problem by himself and would have not asked for help here.

Many PMs have to work in these conditions and don't have the means to solve this kind of problems in the manner suggested by some people. @Damians suggestions for instance are more realistic for this situation. I imagine that Murtaza would have replaced the "Cowboy" team member if he had the power to do so.
Although, for the most part, I also disagree with what you've mentioned, I just have one comment:

A Project Manager is not a boos, that is true. The word boss is heaving on the ears - PM's are leaders and with their soft skills and influence, they can manage their team effectively and efficiently.
...
2 replies by Adrian Carlogea and Debbie Clemons
Sep 07, 2018 1:40 PM
Adrian Carlogea
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When you are a PM and a team member tells you that he would do things his way and you can't remove him from the project team, can't fire him from the organization and his/her line manager fully supports his actions what would you do?

In reality most of the times project managers and team members work very well with each other and from what I have seen most PMs show humility and support for the team members without having fantasies about being bosses. However in the rare occasions in which conflicts do appear most PMs don't have the authority to resolve problems like a boss would do. I don't want to offend anyone but many times is the PMs fault when these conflicts occur.
Sep 07, 2018 4:21 PM
Debbie Clemons
...
I agree , The PM is not the boss but ultimately responsible. This is where the people management skills come into play. I've personally been in this situation several times before. I've found that pulling this person in closer to you and making them "feel important" wins them over.
Network:297



Sep 07, 2018 1:12 PM
Replying to Adrian Carlogea
...
Many PMs don't have the authority to do what you say you would do. In fact many of them must work with team members that are more senior than them. In some rare occasions even the functional managers could work as project team members as they are SMEs.

If the PMs had been bosses then @Murtaza would have fixed the problem by himself and would have not asked for help here.

Many PMs have to work in these conditions and don't have the means to solve this kind of problems in the manner suggested by some people. @Damians suggestions for instance are more realistic for this situation. I imagine that Murtaza would have replaced the "Cowboy" team member if he had the power to do so.
The premise is of importance here and that's why i prefaced the question with "weak matrix or functional" environment and we know that means PMs have very little authority in this case.

Confrontation may be the best answer on PMP exam but in practice it can sometimes backfire if there are no checks and balances over these cowboys (fact in my case).

It can also be related to another recurring theme we all have heard .. being the red tape or the 2nd boss syndrome, which is something easier to navigate with those who are willing to give you a chance but Cowboys already have their mind made up and no matter what value proposition you have, they continue to be cowboys and in worst cases have the contagious effect on others too.
...
1 reply by Kevin Langley
Sep 07, 2018 6:16 PM
Kevin Langley
...
Murtaza, you are right. I have worked in both organizations that have a weak and strong matrix. In a weak matrix, you need to garner the support of their manager and of any managers of departments being impacted. Of course this is true for any project, but more so in a weak matrix.

In a strong matrix it is more likely that the balance of power between functional and project management may be more balanced. However, this depends on the level of support from executive management for the practice of project management. If support for project management is low, then it is more likely that no matter what the reporting structure is like, the balance of power will go to the cowboy. In some instances verbal support may be high, but active support may be low. This is interpreted by the "cowboy" as a license to carry on as always.
Network:297



Sep 07, 2018 11:56 AM
Replying to Rami Kaibni
...
Escalating is definitely not an option. Here is what I would do:

1- Talk to him or her in person and privately. Explain what they are doing vs. what they should be doing and be clear about the key points.

2- If no improvement, then verbal warning followed by a written warning.

If that all did not work then you escalate and relocate him / her if possible because at some point their attitude will affect the team.
Thanks Rami - Just on your 2nd point, the premise is Weak matrix organizations. PM(s) have no authority to issue written or verbal warnings.

I can see how that's the right way to go in strong matrix (and up) or within established PMOs.
...
1 reply by Rami Kaibni
Sep 07, 2018 1:48 PM
Rami Kaibni
...
I understand it is a weak matrix but again, please check my latest reply to Adrian. I know in a weak matrix the PM is more of a project coordinator so sometiems there is nothing much you can do about it.
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