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Lessons learned from the inconsistent project manager

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When you think of leadership you think of things like integrity, honesty, consistency, responsibility, respect, etc... right? For team members to follow a project manager – or any leader for that matter – they need to see consistency and maybe even begin to anticipate decisions, delegations, and communication before they happen. That's how the next round of good leaders develops, right?

What happens when the leader is inconsistent in their leadership, their communication, their assignments, and their treatment of team members and customers? Doubt comes into play. Hard to trust your project, your assignments, your career and your reputation to someone who is displaying very inconsistent leadership and behavior, isn't it? For me it comes down to five problem areas to be aware of and to be attributable to poor and inconsistent project leadership. Be thinking about your own experiences to discuss and share, but here are my five...

Makes it hard for the team to follow. Everyone looks for consistency in their leaders. Bosses who often make conflicting decisions can make their teams and employees uneasy and uncertain about what to do or what direction to take. Don't be that type of leader. Tell your project team how you plan to lead the team and the project and the project customer and then follow through with that direction.

Leadership will always be in question. If the project manager's decision making, communications and directions are often inconsistent and not necessarily in line with what seems like the best project and customer choice, then there will be a point at which the team finds it hard to trust and follow his leadership. Possibly even to the point of mutiny - which on a project means going to the PMO director or higher to complain and request a replacement.

Senior management may involve themselves in the project. If the above happens or if the client is suggesting any problems or lack of faith in the project leadership, senior management may involve themselves in the project to oversee it and plan for a replacement in the project lead role. Likely spells the end to that project manager's career or at least their PM role in the organization. Once your management losing confidence in you, it's time to move on.

Customer frustrations come into play. If you are the inconsistent project manager, your project customer will – sooner or later – become aware of this. They may not spend as much time hearing from you or seeing you as your project team members do, but they will notice it. They will become frustrated and uneasy with your project leadership and – because it's their money and end solution you are working with – they will even start to question everything and likely try to insert some project leadership on their side of the equation... like a customer-side project manager who will try to micro manage you. Trust me, you don't want that. You'll be questioned on every decision, task, task delegation, change order, test result and project update... period. Not a place you want to be and not a way to gain a happy, confident and reference-able project customer.

Who said what? Again, more questions, more uncertainty, more inconsistency. For the project manager to be the successful project leader he is expected to be and he needs to be the center of project communication. His communication must be effective, efficient, up to date, reliable and consistent. And his decision making must be consistent with the goals and mission for the project. Remember the pilot in the movie “Airplane”? His classic quote, “I guess I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue.” Not necessarily the type of leadership you want on your project.

Summary / call for input

The project manager must be honest, of high integrity, consistent and a top notch communicator. If he can't fulfill those basic obligations, then he has no right to the leadership role on critical projects. Don't be that individual because you'll never be successful. Be consistent, be a great communicator (communication is Job One for the project manager) and do what you said you were going to do.

Readers – what are your thoughts? Have you seen or run up against this type of leadership? If so, what did it do to the project? The client? Please share and discuss.


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  1. Russell Bradbury
    Russell Bradbury 20 May 2018, 08:27 AM

    Thanks for writing this Brad. Short and to the point. You're right, if your team knows what to expect from you they work much more efficiently.