Will you get promoted this year?
For project leaders, a new year means a time to start new projects. While many project managers will continue to work on projects similar to last year’s, a few of you want to grow and be considered for more complex projects. If you are one of the few who want to grow and surpass their peers, read on.
What does it takes to be invited to lead more complex projects? Research by Project Management Institute (2013, PMI Pulse of Profession) suggests that project managers with strong leadership skills are more likely to be successful in managing complex projects. Developing your leadership skills should be high on your goal list this year if you are interested in managing complex projects anytime soon.
Let’s do what great project managers do – begin with the end in mind. How do great project manager really impact her project’s performance through their leadership skills? The end result of learning, acquiring and using strong leadership skills is the influence in action (you influencing your team and stakeholders, that is). How can you influence others?
When I became a project manager for the first time, I loved my job. The job fed my curiosity to learn multiple facets of a business. I was learning the side of Logistics I did not know much about, i.e. Finance. I also got to watch experienced, successful project managers communicating seamlessly with stakeholders. For the most part, their conversations were informal and seemed natural. These project managers could put the stakeholders at ease and provide bits and pieces of relevant information that the stakeholders could utilize to be more productive in their work. The project managers also received the help they wanted from the stakeholders, resolving issues in a timely manner and moving quickly through the milestones. They were leading their stakeholders. I observed those successful project manager mentors, learned from them and practiced what I learned during my interactions with stakeholders. I was able to lead my project teams better, resulting in successful project deliveries for my clients and more responsibilities for me, a win-win.
Great project managers influence their stakeholders through their behaviors, the very thing that your stakeholders notice when they interact with you. So, behavior is where the real magic is manifested. Consider this systematic process flow – 1. A situation is presented to you, 2. You interpret the situation in a flash with your heart and mind, 3. You react with a behavior that seems instantaneous to your audience, and 4. Your audience has a subconscious reaction to your behaviors.
Let’s consider our interactions with stakeholders, clients or sponsors. Which behaviors have the potential to elevate your career? What do you do when you are presented with a question or situation? I had been pondering these questions when I met Dr. Richard Heaslip, the President of Programmatic Sciences (http://programmaticsciences.com/). Dr. Heaslip answers these and other similar questions through his research. You can implement these research findings in your everyday project management situations.
When you run into a senior project sponsor who asks you about a problem your project is facing, how do you respond? Do you simply tell the sponsor that you will arrange a meeting with a subject matter expert? Dr. Heaslip’s research findings suggest that a senior and credible project leader will go beyond the step of arranging a meeting. The leader will solicit the sponsor’s perspective, offer his own analysis and an executive recommendation for a solution. I coined the phrase “executive recommendation” to denote the perspective of a company’s CEO. Developing your skill beyond just arranging the meeting takes work but will establish you as a promotion-worthy leader. Dr. Heaslip describes the multiple levels of behaviors going beyond arranging a meeting as “leadership reach”. The higher your leadership reach is, the more developed leader you are.
Next time you end up talking to the executive who holds the key to your career growth, demonstrate a higher level of reach, and that will lead you to more success this year. You might even be considered for promotion. What will you do to develop your leadership skills today? What about reaching out to a senior stakeholder and discussing how you can help them with their project?