At the beginning of my career, I approached Project Management from a fairly technical perspective, applying methodologies and innovating by applying a combination of methods. However, eventually, I learnt that project management is not only about applying methods. It is about understanding that work is not only travail (French word for work, originally from the Latin tripalium, meaning torture instrument) but a way of discovering ourselves by meeting the challenges and overcoming them with our team members. Let me elaborate further.
Academic research is ongoing in the field of management, and will take about 20 years to reach a definitive conclusion about management as a science, and the optimal methods to apply. But till then, we, as Project Managers, need to perform the art by relying on talents.
A recent Catalyst study, relayed by Harvard Business Review, shows that Managers need to possess some essential qualities. Humility is a crucial one, that I have learnt to develop furthermore all these years as a Project Manager. Being open to criticism, admitting our mistakes and knowing that we can’t have all the answers every time, makes us a real human being that people in our team can easily connect to and reflect on. Taking the accountability for failures and holding our employees responsible for the success, is a great way of building inclusiveness in the team.
Courageous decisions, altruistic behaviour from us will help our employees come up with innovative ideas, and a sense of self-belief within each employee helps to build a good working environment.
Apart from the on-going studies and developments in the field of leadership, there are some concrete ways that I have learnt from my work-experience, to perfect our art:
Look at Your Mistakes as Teachable Information for Others
Admitting our own imperfections will make us human like to our people. We all make mistakes and displaying this humility in diverse workgroups will help everybody realize that we share common human qualities. Managers have a role in supporting their team members by guiding them to avoid foreseeable mistakes, in order to achieve success. It is important to remember that success and personal growth is always made from the growth and learning from others. Teaching and coaching are therefore essential.
In addition, it is important to remind ourselves that a sustainable business is always built on trust and reliability. Part of trust is to admit their own mistakes and engage the customer in sharing his ones to grow together a fruitful collaboration.
Dialogues are Always Fruitful than Debates
Another way of practising humility is by truly engaging with others’ point of view. When a leader engages in dialogues, he gets to know and learn about the other points of view. All humble and great leaders always choose dialogues over debates, to take into consideration what their team members are thinking and what their views are on the matter.
As a Manager, I always try to keep my own agendas and beliefs away, when I look into a project. By engaging in dialogue, we validate others’ perspective on how to approach the project. This will enhance our own learning as well.
Uncertainty can be a Bliss
In today’s business environment, ambiguity and uncertainty are part of the journey. When a Project Manager is faced with an ill-defined problem, he or she needs to make the people reporting to him realize that the best bet in these kinds of situations, is to rely on each other.
When inclusive leaders look at complex problems, they do not instantly jump to solutions as they themselves might not have all the answers. Here, the Manager steps back and creates space for others to step forward and offer solutions. This actually initiates interdependence among team members.
Leaders are also Followers
Actual leaders do not just lead. As Ralph Nader once said, The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. Listening to the employees’ perspective always gives me a sense of how they are looking into the matter. This facilitates self-development among the employees.
“Project Management is all about utilizing the tools of listening, coaching, supporting and encouraging to the degree where each member of the team realizes what each and every one of them is capable of and unleash all the talents.”
Yes, challenges are there at every step. But as Paul Hawken puts in: Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.
Vianney D. Lejeune is an end-to-end IT Service and Program Manager with over 10 years of experience in IT Consultancy, regarded as talented and result-focussed by his peers.
His company manages its own IT Services to deliver efficient and quality services related to the Internet for small businesses, and IT support for end-users.
Supported by chosen and skilled IT contractors, including off-shore support, the company is expanding towards other businesses on an international scale.
Further information and references are available on request.