Do you want to be an effective team leader? According to the Project Management Institute’s Pulse Report, more than 80% of high performing organizations report that leadership skills are the most important acquired skills for project management professionals. Researchers at PMI reported that project management elements such as cost, schedule and performance are necessary but insufficient; due to international partnerships, decentralized teams and working alliances, project managers also need negotiation and collaboration skills.
So how do you become a more collaborative project manager? Below are six tips that will help you get started.
1. Accept that you don’t know it all. Many project managers believe they have to know it all and do it all, and that it’s their job to instruct everyone on what to do. But we live in an increasingly dynamic world where no one can know it all and where it’s not the job of the PM to simply instruct others. Your primary role is to enable others to do their best work and to access other people’s genius.
2. Ask open-ended questions. While controlling project managers tell others what to do, enabling managers engage people through questions. When you ask questions, you show people that you value their opinion and that you want them to contribute. That’s the core of collaboration: involving others and enabling them to help define the work they’ll be doing. Ask lots of “how” and “what if” questions and find out how you can best support the team to working collaboratively.
3. Involve the team in the planning process. Even if you’re the project manager who’s expected to put together the plan, you don’t have to do it on your own. When you plan a project in isolation, you run the risk of alienating the team and creating an unrealistic schedule. Instead, get everyone together in a room with whiteboards and sticky notes and create the product breakdown structures and milestone plans collaboratively as a group. Use collaborative project planning software to follow up and to ensure that your plan is continuously updated by all the team members.
4. Don’t hoard information—share it. Few elements kill collaboration more than someone who is overly controlling about precisely who knows what and who does what. Excluding certain people from client meetings or not keeping everyone informed about important decisions creates fractions and hampers collaboration. Instead, have a mechanism that fosters transparency around project objectives and key decisions. You can do this through inclusive team meetings and by being open to comments and questions. Why not ask people if they feel sufficiently informed?
5. Share responsibilities. As the project manager, you’re officially responsible to the project board for coordinating and delivering the project’s outputs and benefits. But to what extent are you sharing this responsibility with the team? When you start a new activity, ask yourself if you could share the assignment or decision-making with someone else. You probably can. You’ll find that people take more responsibility—and rise to the occasion—the more you involve them in the decisions that affect them.
6. Ask for feedback. All great project managers have an ability to open up, share and collaborate. But it’s not always obvious if we come across as truly collaborative. To know how you’re really being perceived, stop guessing and instead ask your team for direct feedback. How collaborative are you in their eyes? Why or why not? Ask team members to mention specific situations where you were collaborative and give suggestions for improvements. Ask them what you should start doing, stop doing, and continue to do. This might not be comfortably received by everyone on the team. Find some willing participants, and then set an appropriate time for the feedback. Whatever you do, don’t spring the questions on your team. It’s always nice to know what to expect—when we can.
Do you have another tip to become an expert collaborator?