Sharing the Stage to Win in Project Management
What kind of manager are you, theory X (TX) or Y (TY)? As we all learn at some point in our education, TX generally assumes that employees are shiftless and lazy, and will only work if they’re forced to do so. TY on the other hand assumes that all employees want to do a good job, and if given the responsibility, authority, and tools to get the job done, they will devote themselves to the best outcome they can generate.
In reality, of course, things are never this binary. Any group will have some people that generally fit the TX profile and others who better align to TY. It’s the job of each manager to extract the maximum value from the teams they manage, and within the framework of project management, that requires more than their obedient follow through on assigned tasks (i.e. TX). It requires each team member’s best research, critical thinking, and independent action towards the best possible project outcomes. In short, they have to own the problem right along with the PM. It is the PM’s job to make sure they’ve identified resources that can and will do just that.
Getting the best work from a team necessarily means placing trust in each team member. PM’s with a proclivity to “play the hero”, will often claim that project responsibility falls squarely on the their shoulders alone, but such statements smack of a TX mentality. The PM hero will often shoot from the hip, make decisions in a vacuum, and under utilize team members by limiting them to assigned tasks and not utilizing them as subject matter experts in planning and decision making efforts. While it’s true that the PM is ultimately accountable for project outcomes, those with highly developed management skills will involve their team members in identifying what needs to be done and providing expertise in decision making, as well as actually doing all the work. This level of engagement is important since projects, in addition to meeting business requirements, also have a significant impact on team building, professional development, and employee on the job training for employees and partners.
So what does it mean to “share the stage”? It means, making important delegations that challenge team members, helping them to exceed those challenges, and then giving them the credit when they do. This behavior builds leadership skills for tomorrow and motivates employees to do their best work for the PM. It motivates them to work with the PM again whenever the chance arises. Employee satisfaction improves when team members are given the chance to have an impact and are recognized for good work. Gallup (the poll production company) made the connection years ago that customer satisfaction follows in a direct correlation to employee satisfaction, so there is a direct impact on customer loyalty. OK, all good stuff, so what’s in it for the PM.
Well here’s the odd part – the part that doesn’t really seem logical. The good guys really do win in the end. Although it’s hard for some the get their heads around (you know them), when someone takes on a management role, it becomes less about them and what they do personally, and more about what they are able to accomplish through others. While the PM was busy delegating all the interesting work to team members, selflessly helping them win the glory, and openly praising their efforts, all eyes above were fixed on the PM. Why? Their team was well motivated, engaged, and productive. They obviously selected the best and used them wisely because project outcomes were very good and this was highlighted when the PM personally took steps to praise the great work done by key team members in project reports. In general, this PM seems to be creating win-win scenarios in every direction.
I heard it best stated in an old AMEX advertisement where the young restaurant owner says, “My father told me, you can do anything you want to do – you just can’t do it alone.” Absolutely right – you need the team. PM’s who don’t realize that, won’t get the best their team has to offer, and all project related outcomes will suffer.
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