Just about every seasoned project manager has experienced at least one failure in his or her career. I am always skeptical of the experienced PM who says "I've never failed". They're either lying or don't have experience. Some of my best (and most painful) growth as a professional occurred because of a failed project. Project managers can redeem themselves and maintain credibility by doing the following:
On one of my consulting assignments I worked with one of the client's young rising stars who I'll call Buddy. Buddy was an incredibly hard worker, could take on a number of projects at one time, and managed to deliver results on a very timely basis. Buddy was also brilliant and had a very practical and keen business sense. Great raw materials for a great future leader.
In a prior life I was having a discussion with two of our managers on deciding between which of two food shows we should have a booth. As the discussion went on, one of our managers said, "well, we just need to do more research on what the best food show is for us to attend." While it is true we didn't have enough information to make a good decision, what we were missing was the decision criteria in which to make the right decision. Once we focused the discussion on what our decision criteria was (buyer attendance, breadth of product line which we can show, and cost), our data gathering became much more purposeful and focused and yielded a better-informed decision.
Recently I ran across a situation that reminded me of leaders needing to delegate responsibility while remaining engaged with what the team is doing. At one of my former employers we had a particularly thorny issue which required multiple groups to work together to address. It was important that I delegate resolution of the issue to the team, but it was also important that the team had a glimpse into some of my thinking on the issue. When I delegated the issue to one of my managers for resolution, I also articulated some guiding principles that the team needed to keep in mind while resolving the issue. What this allowed me to do was not only provide some considerations for the team to noodle over while coming up with a resolution to the issue but also empower the team to make the decision as to what to do about the issue.
Over the years I have been on both ends of constructive (and not so constructive) criticism. Quite frankly, I still struggle with doing this flawlessly every time, but I've put together some guiding principles that I try to work under and thought might be helpful to you:
A couple of years ago I did an interview on what a manager can do to regain trust when he or she has screwed up royally. I thought the points were particularly pertinent to many of my subscribers so I thought I'd print excerpts from the interview here:
We all know a procrastinator . . . the person who does Christmas shopping on December 24th, pulls an all-nighter to get a report done, or avoids making even the simplest decisions. Many times the procrastinator puts forth a defense of, "Well, I do get it done, don't I?" Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Even if things do get done, though, the stress put on the procrastinator (and those around him or her) is greater than it needs to be. If you know of a procrastinator (or are one yourself), use these tips to help make life a bit easier for not only the procrastinator but for those around him or her as well.
He hadn’t researched my company, didn’t understand what products we developed beyond our flagship product, and didn’t know what types of jobs we were looking to fill. The most amazing thing, though, was that he came in expecting me to sell him on the company versus him demonstrating why he was someone worth pursuing. My decision was made in the first minute of the interview. It was my easiest interview of the day.
If you're like many people, the thought of speaking in front of a group of people is like bamboo under your nails. Truth be told, the audience wants to see you succeed and doesn't want to see a crash-and-burn on the stage. The audience is rooting for you.
Next time you have to take to the podium, keep the following in mind:
It's happening more and more; managers are being asked to manage virtual teams of people that may or may not have a direct reporting relationship to the manager. Some find it easy to do, but many others find it difficult to garner the respect from team members who don't have to follow the manager. Get a few helpful tips to help you next time you're asked to manage a virtual team.
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