Developing as a Leader

Yes you heard me right, even as a Leader you still need to develop. Nobody has reached the top and is perfect. All of us are on a journey of growth. The most obvious was in childhood, where our bodies and minds were constantly reaching new milestones. However as adults we need to work on development. It is a conscious effort. The decision is yours, are you happy where you are or do you need to grow?

Read up on horizontal & vertical development. The Center for Creative Leadership has a lot of resources.

You may ask, what is this horizontal & vertical stuff you are talking about?

Horizontal development:    The new information, tools and knowledge you gain

Vertical development:         “What you do with it” – the increase in ability to work with the                                                new knowledge you have gained.

We go through different stages of development. All of us started out as a Conformer, most of the leaders have at least reached the next stage of Achiever. This is the “My way or the Highway” stage – you believe you have all the solutions. The third stage is the Interdependent Collaborator. You know that the best solution for this group / this project / this company only can be worked out and customized by the entire group. You do not provide solutions, but facilitate to work them out.

Since the team has worked on this solution together, they will buy in and own it. Compliance will be much better, less resistance and much better results in the end. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

This growth does not come by itself. If you stop reading, learning, looking for new knowledge, new tools etc, then you have lost your plot. You are stuck in a rut and are not developing. If you stretch yourself and keep learning and working on yourself a whole new world opens up for you.

Here are a few examples from my life:

  • When I got involved in PMI and started volunteering, a whole new network opened up for me. More opportunity to learn from others.
  • Working as Senior Project Manager and Change Manager with different companies my leadership style and my approach changed over the years. I used to be in the achiever stage and wanted people to take up my solutions, since they would make their life much easier. Now I work with the teams – yes the team, not the Senior Management alone – to develop the solutions. They have the answers and ideas, you only need to guide them to formulate their ideas.
  • My journey in the Leadership Institute Master Class (LIMC) of PMI it was the learning more about myself, how I tick and how others perceive me, that triggered the most growth. Have you ever wondered why others perceive some of your good intentions negatively? Usually these areas are overdone strengths. You want to have more of that strength and are subconsciously overdoing it. Once you have identified what you are overdoing, you can then start toning down a bit. You will be surprised how different the others will perceive you.

What does this look like practically? If you are want to be very supportive and overdo it, others may perceive you as self-sacrificing. Your strength is perceived by others as weakness. If you are too adaptable, you may be perceived as compliant. If you are too helpful, you will be perceived as smothering. And the most obvious and common one: If you are too confident, you will come across as arrogant. If you think about it you will find people in your environment, who do exactly that.

All of us have 28 strengths in varying degrees. Some so little developed that they become weaknesses that hinder our growth.

In all the above cases, if you tone it down a bit, don’t do it too much into people’s faces, let it be more subtle, people will perceive it as the strength it is.

We are all on a journey, let’s keep learning and growing. When you look back you can marvel at where you have reached. Like when you stand on a mountain top after a climb and the starting point is in the valley far away. By then you can also laugh at the more foolish things you used to do, as you were growing.

Career Options for Project Managers

Just a few thoughts on the possibilities that are open to project managers.

First of all you need to realize that, no matter what level in the corporate structure you are on, you ARE a Leader. As a project manager you do have a lot of responsibility and you do make a lot of decision and influence people – in other words you are a Leader. Hence from where you are you can influence a lot of things. You do not need to be at a certain level of authority to be a Leader, but can lead from behind, whichever position you are in. It is about a lifestyle of Leadership – not bossing people around, but living by example.

The career of a project manager can be as diverse as you make it and as interesting as you make it. You are the one who leads to your destiny. As a project manager it is important to also take charge of your career and not be a victim.

The 2 main options are of course:

  1. Do I want to be employed
  2. Do I want to freelance / be self employed

In my opinion it is good for all of us to work in formal employment for a while, while we learn the ropes and understand the full responsibilities of an independent project manager. Then the decision if you branch out into self employment, into taking project contracts or stay in formal employment really depends on individual preferences. You need to decide if you prefer the stability of a regular paycheck combined with the ease of not having to do all the administrative work, that comes with being self employed or having your own company. However others will say that in self employment the sky is the limit and you can earn as much as you are willing to put work into it. As you get older you might realize also that your options of being employed are thinning out, once you are in the mid 40s you will realize that some employers will be reluctant to employ someone as “old” as you are. You might find it easier to get contracts for project duration.

However there are many other options for project managers:

  1. Be a “normal” project manager who simply manages projects – which is a BIG responsibility
  2. Be a Head of Projects who manages a team of project managers or even leads a Project Management Office (PMO)
  3. Establish a Project Management Office (PMO) – which can have different functions – see my article to the topic
  4. Become a Senior Manager / C suite Member who influences strategy and internal processes
  5. Be a Compliance Officer for project compliance
  6. Be an independent Project Manager who works on contract – usually these tend to manage mega projects
  7. Be a Project Management Consultant, who manages projects for other companies
  8. Be a Project Management Process Consultant, who helps companies set up their project management methodology or department
  9. Be Project Management Trainer / Speaker / Author etc.
  10. Be a Project Management Coach or Mentor
  11. Be a Change Management Consultant
  12. Etc – I am sure there are more options

I think project management is an exciting career which never needs to be boring and everyone can find his niche. Some might find it right away, others might need to do a bit of trial and error until they find the place they enjoy most.

Project management is needed in all sectors, and I mean in all sectors. I met a project manager, when I did my PMP training, who managed bible translation projects!

Why don’t you share with all of us, what you have done in your project management career and where your niche is.

Communication overload in Project Management

We are living in a day and age where we get information from all over. Every day there are new channels of information:

  • New Apps
  • New Software
  • New Collaboration Tools
  • Etc.

You can get so lost in all this and never be able to concentrate on anything. That’s where you need to organize yourself and structure your approach. If you don’t you risk drowning in this flood of information. In addition to that many of us have gotten addicted to social media updates to a certain level. This definitely diverts our attention, think of the times you have sat in a meeting and someone is physically present, but their mind & eyes are fixed on their phone. Think of how irritating it is. Now realize it is  just as irritating to others if you do it.

In order to survive in this world of over-information you need to:

  1. Decide what tool to use for what – it should be 1 tool for a group you work with, so that all the information is in the same place
  2. If you are in a team / group that works together, decide which tool to use. It should only be one. You can be the person to push for this even if you are not the team leader
  3. Set out the rules – what can be done and what can’t be done? What can you post, what can’t you post? Frequency? Timings? etc
  4. Control yourself
    1. Did you actually know that all the alerts on your phone can be set on silent?
    1. Did you know, that just because a message comes in, you do not need to open it there and then?
    1. Did you know that you do not need to respond to every message immediately? Just because someone is asking for a document or answer, does not mean you need to drop everything and do it right now.
    1. Sit down and analyze what kind of requests you need to respond to:
      1. Immediately
      1. Within 1-2 hours
      1. Same day
      1. Within 24 hours
      1. After 48 hours or more
  5. Focus on what you are doing and stop looking on your phone all the time
  6. Put your phone away, put it in your bag, when you are having a meeting
  7. Social Media info is not going away, just because you have not read it immediately. You can check it after work or during a break if you must

If you work on the above points, you can get yourself to focus more on your work and safe time. Think about it.

What do Nursing and Project Management have in common?

Have you ever thought about what Nursing and Project Management have in common? This actually helped me embrace Project Management when I found myself being forced into Project Management and was not ready to move into a new profession.

Right out of High School I trained as a Nurse and worked in the medical field for over 20 years. Then suddenly I couldn’t find a job in the Healthcare Sector and the Healthcare Software Company I was working for closed down. One of the shareholders offered me a job in his IT Company and my journey into the scary world of IT began. I actually asked my future boss what he thinks I could do in his company, since I am a Nurse and Medical Administrator. He told me I know my customer service and customers are the same in all industries. So I unknowingly my journey into Project Management. First I was given all the serious client complaints to sort out and automatically I ended up sorting issues on one of the Mega Projects. One day suddenly the Managing Director called me into his office and told me he wants me to do project management. That was a really scary thought….., especially in the IT world, that was so different from the medical world I came from. I told him I don’t know anything about it and think it is better if he employs someone who is trained. So I thought I got away with it, since I was left alone for 6 months. However the next time I was summoned, I was told in no uncertain terms I have to do project management or I would be laid off. With a heavy heart I took up project management. First I read as much as I could online and at the same time learned what I could from my Data Infrastructure Team on the technical side. I took a course in MS Project, which only proofed to me that I still did not know much about Project Management. So I looked for training. The only reason I took the PMP training, was that it was cheaper than the other trainings like Prince 2 – I didn’t know the difference at the time – and my employer was more likely to pay for it.
This decision opened up an entire new world for me.

But the decisive moment came when I sat for the first day in the PMP training. The trainer was doing the initial introduction of what project management is and was talking about project planning. Suddenly everything sounded so familiar:

Goals, Risks, Planning, Monitoring – those were all terminologies I was familiar with. As Nurses, when you do proper Client Care Planning, you look at all these, define them and plan your care accordingly. That’s when It clicked in my mind and I realized that I can do project management. Thanks to this AHA moment I was able to embrace a new profession in my late 40s and also realized that I had been doing project management all my life. Somehow I always ended up managing one project or other.

Getting started with my Ramblings

Hi everyone,

here I am trying to find my place n the world of blogs. I am completely new to this and will be trying out different things.

I am a Project Manager, Program Manager, PMO Manager, Project Compliance Officer, Project Process Development Specialist, Change Manager, Trainer & Mentor and want to share my experience and my lessons learned. I do publish regular articles in both and KiGospaces and am now venturing into blogging.

For now I want to write a blog every Tuesday. Then we take ti from there and see how it goes.