Letters to a young project manager: First letter

ByFrançois Cartier,

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In the context of mentorship, one of the most difficult character traits to convey to a project manager relates to leadership. In this area of expertise, there is no better frame of reference than the WBS, well organized in managing earned value, the critical path, or risk management.

After several years heading the mentoring program at PMI Montreal, still having found no miracle recipe for the sponsored, I will nevertheless try to resume what is expected of a project manager and share some useful tips. These letters will be written with a young project manager in mind. In the mentorship program, the sponsored individuals often go through a long transition between PCO (project control officer) to project manager (project manager role).

The reference article support for this letter is “Speak the Language of Leadership”, Bristol and Yeatts, PMI Global Congress Proceedings, 2010.

In general, in project management, we deal with a matrix organization and we, the project managers, do not have direct authority over our resources. We are rarely the immediate superiors of all our resources. However, we are responsible for the success of our project team.

Tip #1 : The project manager must establish his credibility and create a climate of trust within his team. “Trust lies at the heart of a functioning, cohesive team.”

Tip # 2 : The project manager must identify the dysfunctions within the team.  As the Zen saying goes, “It is what it is.” We must embrace the reality of our teams, their patterns, strengths and weaknesses. The following list provides frequent problematic issues in project teams:

  • Not in sync with the objectives
  • Fear of taking on responsibilities
  • Fear of commitment
  • Fear of provoking conflict
  • Lack of trust between team members

We can only see what we recognize. The young project manager must sharpen his senses and detect the symptoms.

Tip # 3 : The project manager must swiftly address these dysfunctions. It is within his power to patiently eradicate these problematic issues by his qualities as a communicator, by his emotional intelligence and his leadership.

The next letter will give specific approaches to exercise better leadership.

The next letter … :

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