Step it up
Don't just follow the leader—become the leader.
BY ALFONSO BUCERO, PMP, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
Before they can manage others, project managers must learn to manage themselves. Take, for example, the well-known fable of the crow and the rabbit. The rabbit asks the crow, “May I also sit and do nothing all day long?”
“Sure, why not?” answers the crow. The rabbit sits on the ground. Suddenly, a fox pounces and eats the rabbit. Lessons learned: If you're just going to sit, you better sit high up. If you're down where the action is, you better learn to watch out for yourself.
Leading others begins with mastering self-management. To gain credibility with your boss, team members and stakeholders, focus on the following areas:
Emotions. Effective leaders know when to display and restrain emotions. Ian Parkinson mastered this art while leading a Y2K project for HP in the United Kingdom. He defended his team and effectively communicated with senior-level executives, using terminology rooted in business impact, figures, results and customer satisfaction. On the other hand, while talking to team members, he emphasized positivism to keep up morale despite the lack of commitment from upper managers.
Time. Project leaders tend to feel obligated to put in long hours. From 1998 to 2001, I was involved in a project for a Spanish banking company while working at HP. My long commute and extensive hours kept me 450 kilometers away from home from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. I felt like I lived for work, and team productivity sank. To remedy this, I signed up for a health club membership and left work everyday at 6 p.m. People noticed my new approach and followed suit. Though we worked three fewer hours a day, our performance increased.
Priorities. In many European companies where project management is still developing, project managers have no choice but to wear multiple hats. Take the old proverb as a warning: If you chase two rabbits, both will escape. The same is true with tackling too many projects. Rui Silva, for example, was pressured by upper management to serve as project management office director, project manager and customer project manager at HP in Portugal. When project management performance slipped from juggling multiple roles, he put the priority on a single project— the same Y2K initiative Mr. Parkinson was working on. The move improved efficiency, commitment and focus.
Even a mid-level project leader without decision-making power can manage priorities with this simple formula: Focus 80 percent of your work time on areas in which you excel, 15 percent on areas you want to improve and five percent on other areas as necessary. Try writing “stop doing” lists, much like you make “to do” lists.
Energy Even project leaders with high energy can feel drained. Up until a few years ago, I never had to ration my energy. Now at 50, I choose a main event each morning and put aside enough reserves to participate with full focus and passion.
Words. If you have something worthwhile to say, say it briefly and well. If not, sometimes it's better to stay silent. Next time, think for a moment before expressing your thoughts.
Personal life. For me, success is having the love and respect of those closest to me. Of course, I want my colleagues to respect me too, but never at the expense of my family.
Once you've mastered these six areas of self-management, you'll have a better chance to make an impact on others. PM
Alfonso Bucero, PMP, is an independent consultant who manages projects throughout Europe and Asia and is the author of Project Management—A New Vision.
MARCH 2007 | PM NETWORK