Want a better team? Be a better leader.

The term “project manager” is a something of a misnomer; project management is as much, if not more, about managing people as it is about projects. Two key aspects of being an effective project manager is the ability to motivate your team and to see, and clearly articulate, the bigger picture. People need to understand why they are doing what they are doing and, in the project management world, it falls within the ambit of the PM’s role to ensure that the team has a clear vision of where they’re headed, and why they are going there, not only how they will get there.

Often an IT PM came into that role because of his or her technical skills, but being a good project manager means also developing “softer” skills that bring out the best in the team.

In their best seller, Extreme Ownership, authors and former Navy SEAL commanders Jocko Willink and Leif Babin share a valuable lesson about leadership: “There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.”

During a Facebook Live interview, Babin said he can remember times from his years with the SEALs where he thought, “If I just had a better team, I would do better.”

“Wrong,” he said of this train of thought. “If I was a better leader, my team would have been better, and that’s what leaders have to recognize and step up and make happen.”

Top of the list of good project manager leadership qualities is the willingness to be accountable for your team. Own the team, own the project and own the results, both good and bad. This includes understanding that not all team members will respond to the same management style. Appreciating what makes individual team members tick and being able to tap into that, in terms of managing and motivating them, is a powerful management tool.

And it’s not just about managing the team, the PM also has the responsibility to manage “upwards”. The PM is the link between the project team and the executive. This means not being afraid to ask the right questions and, when necessary, deliver “unpopular” news. A good PM understands the strategic objective of the project and communicates it, not only to the team, but to all the stakeholders across the business.

Leadership is also about identifying non-performers and being able to deal with non-performing individuals with the minimum impact on the team. While it’s important not to break the team down or destroy morale, PMs must be brave enough to take action and remove a team member when necessary.

It’s important to know your own strengths, and weaknesses, as a leader so that you can build on the former and mitigate the latter.  If you’re a people’s person and you can build people up, great. If not, you may need some help in that department and sometimes enlisting the help of a project administrator, who can take care of the softer issues, may be the answer.

© Tony McManus, McManus Consulting.
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