The Missing Piece in the Project Manager

Leadership Tools are the key to effectiveness as a project manager
Become an effective project manager

Any project manager has a tough job to satisfy all stakeholders involved! Project managers have specific targets to reach, which are traditionally defined in financial terms as well as a strict time line. Certified project managers are well trained and often experts in different project planning methods, scheduling structures and project management tools. However, the results are rarely congruent with expectations, and projects frequently experience cost overruns and delays. Here are some pertinent questions:

  • Why is project management generally so stressful?
  • What are reasons that targets are rarely met?
  • What is wrong with the process?
  • What other tools would make a difference?

A key element in project management seems to be consistently overlooked and undervalued: Effective leadership! Some of you may be thinking “What does he really mean by that?”

Let me elaborate on the concept of leadership for a moment, as there are essentially three premises we would need to get alignment on:

  1. The main purpose for which effective leaders are sought after and rewarded with a premium is “to create results”. Obviously, the expectation is that they create the desired results!
  2. Consequently, the function of leadership is “creating results THROUGH people”. The key word in this particular premise is “through”, which essentially unfolds into a multitude of necessary leadership abilities covering communication, accountability, people interaction, goal setting & goal achievement, time and priority management, decision making, discipline, constructive feedback, etc.
  3. Leadership is situational. Every situation is different, and a particular “leadership style” may not cut it. Effective leaders have an expansive, comprehensive “leadership toolbox at their fingertips and have developed the necessary habits to utilize these tools with great skill.

How does this specifically relate to a project manager?

The plain reality is that project managers typically have a very complex leadership task! They are accountable for the project outcome yet, in most cases, their project team is assembled by utilizing different subject matter experts from different departments and external resources – often part time. The situation frequently generates the stressful perception of a lack of authority.  Actually, most of these team members have additional priorities in their professional life that are not related to the project at hand. Consequently, the leadership component of the project manager becomes very challenging in nature, and requires a comprehensive leadership tool box supplemented with a great deal of leadership skills to execute successfully. Unfortunately, leadership development is seldom a component of the personal development plan (and investment) of project managers.

To significantly increase the potential for project success and accelerate the success rate, leadership development has proven to be the most effective approach. Organizations, that have made the additional investment of leadership development, on top of the process and relevant PM software training, have materialized a great return on their investment. Most of the feedback from project sponsors indicate return rates of 1,000% and more. While this may sound somewhat fantastic, it actually makes sense. The typical project value warranting a full-time project manager is $650,000. Based on conservative estimates, project cost overruns in money and time (which is money too!) are quite regularly around 20%. We are quickly talking about significant numbers. Enhanced leadership capabilities have generated great improvements with respect to cost and time overruns and, as a side effect, significantly reduced the stress factor of all stakeholders involved. However, it is difficult to assign a monetary value on that part of the equation.

I shall certainly accept that the argument could be seen as self-serving being an executive coach with a focus on leadership development. However, I would suggest to put that notion aside for a moment and reflect on the matter at hand. If improved leadership capabilities can cut the overruns in half, the result would be a cost reduction of $65,000 in the example indicated above. Considering that the leadership skills in question would be equally applicable towards future projects, the savings can add up rather quickly, such that the upfront cost of leadership development becomes insignificant compared to the resulting savings down the road.

Let us know if you have any questions, good luck and become the best project manager you can be!

If you are interested in leadership development for project managers contact us @ info@qli-international.com , if we can’t help you we know someone that can!

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