Saturday, July 13, 2013

What makes a GREAT Project Manager and how to build leadership skills?

I was asked by Project World & World Congress for Business Analysts organizers two questions (full interview will be published on PW&WCBA Blog soon.

1.   What are characteristics of a GREAT project manager?
   2.    How do you as a project manager build leadership skills?

So what makes a great Project Manager? Projects are people not equipment or PERT diagrams, so for me the most important competency of a great PM is people focus. A great Project Manager builds relationships, is interested in others’ success. He or she is emotionally intelligent, gives positive and constructive feedback, coach and teach other to perform their best, is exceptional communicator and listener and provide formal and informal recognition.

I agree with Daniel Goleman, that emotional intelligence is crucial and “without it, a person won’t make a great leader". "I have found, however, that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as “threshold capabilities”; that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader”. More in HBR article “What makes a leader?”.

IBM study (already mentioned in one of my article) reveals that creativity is the most important leadership quality followed by integrity and global thinking  (1500 corporate leaders, from 60 nations and 33 industries were pulled on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world). Creative leaders are more prepared to break with the status quo of industry, enterprise, and revenue models. 

How do I unlash creativity, build integrity and think globally?
  • I support and reword creativity & innovation. I’m open to new ideas and give the team freedom to try new ways of working or new tools or processes.
  • Build trust and high level of honesty – I trust people until I’m proven wrong. 
  •  Find or create some rituals or common symbols – special designed t-shirts or hats, morning coffee together ( I really liked the idea of NTPM 2013 hats, and PMI “I’m PMI” T-shirts etc)
  • Create positive work environment.  Add some fun to work – integration/team building activities, interviews with team members on their passions, hobbies or achievements (both from work and outside) 
  • Formal and informal celebration. Birthdays, milestone/project accomplishments.
  • To understand the cultural differences and make relationships I try to visit a country where my team members are based – very often at my own expenses. If cannot effort a visit  try to find out more on cultures through reading, speaking to people or visiting a restaurant representing the ethnicity of a team member.
  • Coach and mentor rather than control
  • Focus on personal development and knowledge sharing – encourage team members to  taking part or speaking at conferences and then sharing the knowledge and experience with others
 Join me at PW&WCBA in September and save 20% with code: PW13MK

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Successful teams across borders – PART 3 - working collaboratively!

It’s not about communication but collaboration! Effective communication is a tool for working collaboratively and building a high-performing team. In fact, research has shown that effective teams often communicate less than other teams because they have developed a shared understanding.

So, what are the criteria of collaboration?
  • Ownership of shared goals,
  • Relationships with a purpose,
  • Commitment to one another’s success (T.E.A.M = Together Everyone Achieves More).

And why collaboration is so difficult? Because, in order to collaborate effectively we need to break a lot of boundaries. And breaking these boundaries is more difficult when connecting through electronic devices and face-to –face communication is limited. 

What kind of boundaries need to be broken? A few examples below:
Individual (age, gender, ethnic background, personal, native language, assumptions, values etc). If you are working in another country you probably experience quite often people speaking their native language and you have no clue what they are talking about. Maybe about you? How do you feel?
Geographic ( time-zones, political environment, culture, different country value system  – example: students in Poland cheating during their exams)
Task – related (different understanding what’s need to be done)
Organisational (hierarchical, political, etc). Functional organization promotes silo thinking, where collaboration is very difficult. The goals of departments are more important than project objectives, so practically it is  not possible to implement a project management framework where multifunctional cooperation is critical!
Technical (different technology or standard).

“The Handbook of High-Performance Virtual Teams” I had mentioned in my previous post gives us a 5 step framework how to overcome these boundaries:

1. Create a collaborative organisation. Both work structure and processes need to support collaboration. Build your structure to eliminate the silo thinking. The work can be done in modules (teams work on their parts and then meet to review/implement what has been completed or iteratively – engage in back-and-forth development cycles).

2. Create a supportive culture. Each of us is unique! We see the world through different lenses - we have different backgrounds, were brought up in different countries, studied different subjects, were exposed to different cultures etc. 
What is obvious or logical for Poles might not be so obvious for someone from other continent or even another country. Example: when we need to work on something on our own for a couple of hours and we do not want our client to wait and watch our hands we usually suggest to go for a coffee or shopping and come back – don’t we? We don’t really mean that someone needs to drink coffee (maybe does not like) or go shopping, but this is a polite way of saying: “leave me alone please as I need to concentrate on the task and will feel uncomfortable you watching me when working”. But in some cultures the second, direct answer would be more appropriate. Let me share one more example. A few weeks ago I was having dinner in a restaurant with my friends. When we finished our dessert, the waitress asked if we liked it. My friend answered: “the sauce was very sweet, I expected coffee sauce to be not so sweet. “Mine was delicious, very sweet too, but I love sweet” I responded.

A culture can be defined as a shared set of values, believes and norms and to change it takes time, so remember:
ü  Recognize the differences the culture creates – be interested and open!
ü  Changing culture is changing how people act!
ü  Team Charter can help!
ü  Culture of creativity is important element of building a collaborative culture! More on creativity in my next post!

3. Knowledge sharing & Management system. Create a culture of information/knowledge sharing and make it available for everyone. I use the sharepoint or dropbox for storage shared documents, the HUB or other social media/blogs for exchanging and sharing information, raising questions etc and wikis sharing knowledge.

4. Define New Leaders
Today’s leader builds relationships, is  interested in others’ success,  is emotionally intelligent, gives positive and constructive feedback, coach and teach other to perform their best, is exceptional communicator and listener and provide formal and informal recognition. Moreover, focuses on process and outcome, and by that we do not mean “task focus”, control or micromanagement, but rather keeping himself and team on track and motivated (trust). And last but not least is a learner by nature – demonstrates attitude “what can I learn?” rather than “who’s to blame?” and recognizes and respects cultural differences.

5. Align and sustain support system
Both hard and soft infrastructure is crucial and leadership is a key element of the support system, followed by learning and measurements. As a leader make decisions and model behaviours that promote team effectiveness. Tip: Align the support system with needs of your team!