Kick ass sooner in your journey to become world class
Recently, after one of my PMI talks, Joseph, a new Project Manager (PM) asked me, “How can I find a mentor to help me grow faster in my career?” He was about to start a new job, and was interested in accelerating his career growth. I suggested a few avenues where Joseph can look for mentors, and gave him ideas for locating them.
Although you cannot replace the personalized guidance of a mentor in helping you grow into an experienced project leader, we can look to recent research to learn the steps that experienced project managers take. Dr. Stuart Dillon and Dr. Hazel Taylor have published a very useful research article in the Project Management Journal to delineate how experienced and competent IT Project Managers behave in actual leadership situations. These research findings can help you successfully navigate the people side of a project manager’s work life and become behaviorally competent. Turns out there are remarkable differences between an experienced PM and a junior PM. Knowing the difference and taking actions in accordance with this knowledge can skyrocket your growth as a project leader. I outline the key points from their research below:
- Master the tools to communicate, not the ones used to control
Experienced and competent PMs use communication tools more heavily, while junior PMs use control tools in pursuit of their desired outcome. What are the implications for you? Learn and practice communication tools more often and get better at them. Attempting to control people is far less effective.
- Learn when and how to use a tool
Experienced PMs know the tools of communication and they go one step further. They also practice the strategy of analyzing and deciding which communication tools to use, where to use them, with whom, and in what situation. So, the next time you are prompted to send that email about a poor performer to your boss, think – “Is this (written formal – email) the best way to increase project performance, or you should be walk down to the team member and talk to him face to face (verbal informal – in person)?” Probably the latter. Even better – Create a communication checklist early in your project to guide you in how to communicate with the five most important stakeholders in your project (link to a checklist post).
- Learn the art of escalation
Experienced PMs resort less to escalation. They request help from senior stakeholders and sponsors but not as often as a junior PM does. The issue escalation play a critical role in IT projects but should be done with care. Being able to decide when to escalate is very important for your success as an IT project manager. If you do this too much, you will lose your team’s support; Do this very little and you will fall behind and fail to deliver the sponsor’s expectations. There is also my recommended way of escalating (link to the incoming post “what I recommend for escalation”).
My take? Competent Project Managers have more leadership and communication tools in their toolbox. Add the tools to yours and you can kick ass sooner in your career. Save time on your journey to become world class, will you?