The brave-smart project manager and their effect on delivery
The project manager’s behavior or ego can either have a positive of negative effect in project delivery. Regardless if it is an asset or distraction, it is very important to point out behavior that isn’t acceptable. For the seasoned project manager, it’s pretty likely that they have come across many people challenges.
Whether its problematic stakeholders, absent or inexperienced sponsors, misalignment between those at the top and those on the ground, or ineffective communicators within the team, there are many different personalities that intersect on a daily basis. One of the common denominators in these challenges is ego and how it plays out within dynamic and fast-paced environments. There’s little doubt that people need to have thick skin to be in the project management game, however, there are many examples on what happens to projects when egotistical behavior directs the project path and how it can threaten success.
It can be incredibly difficult to speak truth to power or call out behavior detrimental to the outcomes being aimed for, particularly when the environment doesn’t support it or it’s coming from sponsors and stakeholders who haven’t heeded warnings about problems or risks.
However, there is a leadership trait that can make a big impact on how to navigate through landscapes dominated by ego. It’s called being brave-smart. The environment within an organization can be shaped by ego and high performers. Corporate politics can place pressures by applying rapid changes and its demands on people. So when high performers emerge and deliver what look to be successful projects, it seems they are allowed to shape how projects get delivered, particularly when they demonstrate high levels of confidence and seeming ability to get the job done.
High performers often come with egos that, for better or worse, can leave their mark on teams charged with delivering big change and consequently in the cultures that they work within.
Healthy egos belong to people who know they are good at what they do and utilise their knowledge and experience in productive ways. In healthy and supportive cultures, this sort of confidence is a huge enabler to delivering success. But it’s also personal.
Life experience allows individuals to offer the best of themselves only when they are content with where they are. When people feel good about what they’ve done, how they are doing, and themselves in general, it’s easier to tackle even the most challenging problems, regardless if it’s their own problems or someone else’s.
Brave-smart project managers implicitly understand that for a successful team, confidence is a must, but there’s a big difference between confidence and egotistical behavior.
In toxic or deeply challenging environments, what often emerges is a perform-at-all-costs culture that can be deeply detrimental to success, as it allows egotistical behavior to thrive. When egotistical behavior becomes a factor in how projects operate, it’s a huge contributor to increasing the risk of failure. If all of the indicators are pointing toward success, it’s easy to overlook, but when things start going wrong or off-course, ego can become a very big problem.
Good leaders have the competence and ability to see beyond the egos in the room, the smarts to make the right decisions, and the courage to tackle egotistical behavior head-on.
A good leader will make decisions on what is best for the project or the company and not focus the egos in the room. They will evaluate situations on facts, seek clarification, get several views on a given situation, and they will ask for guidance where it’s necessary.
They’ll ensure that people understand their roles and responsibilities are clearly understood, that the right people are in the right roles, and they will adhere to the principles of strong governance.
Most importantly, an effective leader is only as effective as the sponsor they are delivering for. If the sponsor isn’t listening, project leaders need to be adept enough to find a way to communicate news – be it good or bad – to the sponsor.
Brave-smart leaders implicitly understand how important it is to spend time with the team to gauge how each of them is feeling and use positive reinforcement and other fit-for-purpose techniques to help create a positive environment to get the best from them.
Setting the tone is a valid – and invaluable – starting point for eliciting the kind of behaviors that leave ego at the door. Examples may include:
- Agreeing what is acceptable behavior upfront
- Listening and allowing others to speak
- Valuing the input, opinion, and perspective from various viewpoints within the team
- Remain focused on outcomes that the project is aiming to achieve as a team so that contributions remain in context, are not easily parked, and do not side-track or personalize matters
- Ensuring that those with the egotistical behaviors need to back up what they say with facts
- Setting the platform that enables Brave-Smart conversations to be had from the outset
Brave-smart behavior should always be the goal. When a team is clear on some of the above behaviors, it makes it easier – though not easy – to call out behavior like that of the egotist that is never conducive to fostering a long term productive delivery environment.
What are your thoughts on the brave-smart project manager, leader we would like to hear from you.