We often run into those situations in the workplace that lead to a jousting match with a co-worker, a customer, a vendor, or even a contractor that has been brought in to run 'traffic control' for a given period of time during a project. A power struggle can ensue quickly and you both feel like you need to prove who maintains ownership of the project. It can begin without warning and escalate to the rest of the team through water cooler talk and digital delivery. A phone call, an email that comes off with a tone that's controlling or arrogant, or even a simple text message that is demanding. In any case the TONE has been set or sent. Logically you ask yourself - What can I do about this person and this 'control' that his or her arrogance gives him or her over the situation? How can I manage someone who self diagnoses themselves as "project manager"?
Typically a jousting match is now underway. You try and gain position over your opponent. You move in to strike but also must always re position in order to defend yourself. Words are exchanged and rather than focusing on the project and its completion, you now must draw your attention to this person who seemingly feels like they must dictate their opinions and ideas to the entire project team and in doing so in the manner they choose, it throws off the project timeline and the synergy amongst the team you worked so hard to build.
So now what? Its simple.
Focus on the project and don't make them your project
You have an entire team that is looking for guidance and leadership throughout the project timeline. Step up and provide it. If you engage with this person and focus your attention on their behavior, you will bring your team into the arena for battle as well. The project will lose focus because you changed your focus. Keep your eye on the prize.... to cross the goal line. While doing so be sure to remain focused. Focus on the project, the deliverables, the timelines, and the execution of tasks. Communicate effectively and transparently with your team and do this everyday.
Be a Forest Ranger, not a Firefighter
It’s difficult to think long-term when fighting fires. And not thinking further than the immediate will create problems in the long run. Firefighting is a management style not only used by project managers. When someone spends all their time putting out fires, they look very busy, and they have a great sense of purpose.
Fire fighters may be glamorous, but forest rangers prevent fires. Which would you rather be? The firefighting project manager that is always running around and fixing emergencies, or the forest ranger project manager who keeps projects running smoothly? Focus on YOUR style not theirs. Listen. Ears open, mouth closed is the best way to get information about a project’s sensitive areas. Your team will respect you for being attentive to them and the projects needs.
Don't pretend to know more than you do
For the most part, project managers today possess an understanding of technology rather than a command of technology, yet persist in trying to make technical decisions on the project. This usually infuriates subordinates or team leads.
The size and complexity of today’s projects should make it clear to project managers that they must rely heavily upon the assigned subject matter experts and functional leads for technical direction and support. On some projects, such as in software, project manager assignments may be dictated by a requirement for a command of technology rather than just an understanding, but this is an exception rather than the rule. Good project managers know their limitations and never try to dictate a solution without first consulting with the true experts.
There's a time and way to show everyone who's the Boss
Project managers view themselves as the “President” of the project. While this is not necessarily bad, project managers may need to realize that this is a title only and may come with very little real authority. Project management is often described as "leadership without authority".
Project managers that try to show that they are in charge can alienate team members, especially those team members that really understand project management. Sometimes team members will let the project manager believe that he/she is in charge and then use the PM as the dumping ground for any and all decisions knowing that the PM may make the wrong decision. Don't get caught up in your title and be a team player. Project management is a team effort. If the PM fails to get to know the team, then the team members may not feel as though they are part of the team. Knowing the team can foster better communications, cooperation, teamwork and trust.
Select the Right Battlefield
To be good at waging war, one must know when to attack, when to defend, and when to retreat, so as to fight again. Inexperienced project managers tend to lack an understanding of when to fight and when to give up. Instead, they often fight battles that should be fought by others or should not be fought at all. Project managers must know what battlefield is right for them.
See! Its really simple.
Work smarter not harder! This list is not all-inclusive. However, it does provide some guidance on the type of issues and interactions that project managers must come to understand. Properly managing a project can save significant time, money, and most importantly - your energy. Don't get caught up jousting. Remain focused!
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