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Project Manager to Leader in the North East!

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Project Manager to Leader (a taster session) was the theme for Russel Jamieson’s session with our branch in Newcastle on Tuesday 10 March 2020.

Trying to give a flavour of what would be covered in a full day session was always going to be difficult in the allocated hour but with around 70 people in the room we set off in pursuit of just that, albeit without the professional actors of People Deliver Projects who provide the very powerful ‘experiential learning’.

Russel began by getting a few (almost) willing volunteers to stand in front of everyone else to show what a Project Manager and a Leader physically looked like. He then got everyone to begin to document what they thought a good leader would look like, first impressions and all that. He continued by looking at some of the traits of a good leader, including:

  • Individual Style (including Sponsors and Stakeholders)
  • Individual and Team needs (for direction and support)
  • Teams Style Profile (including dynamics and diversity)

He also shared some examples of, in his opinion, good leaders who he had worked with previously and some who are doing great stuff in PM land right now including Adrian Dooley (Praxis Framework), Martin Paver (Projecting Success) and Donnie MacNicol & Jonathan Norman (The Delivery Manifesto). From a work perspective he highlighted Hazel Freeborn (BT) and Mike Fegan (JPMorgan).

Time then for everyone to once more reflect upon what they had heard and further develop their thoughts on what a good leader looks like.

Next, we moved onto Sponsors and assisted by a quote from Colin Powell, we looked at the Leadership Wheel and some aspects from the Institute of Leadership & Management. We briefly addressed some characteristics, potential barriers, strategic control, communication, conscious and un-conscious bias before briefing touching upon Emotional Intelligence, Intellectual Intelligence and Spiritual Intelligence.

With brains beginning to pop it was time to reflect and further develop our thoughts on what a good leader looked like and, for the brave few, to begin to create some artistic impressions.

The final part of our trilogy on the evening was an overview of the October 2018 published research on Project leadership: skills, behaviours, knowledge and values led by Sarah Coleman.

The research was a collaboration between academia (Cranfield), industry and project practitioners, so providing a joint and broad perspective.

The industry partners were:

  • BAE: defence, aerospace and security.
  • IQVIA: advanced analytics, technology solutions and contract research services to the life sciences industry.
  • Jacobs: technical, professional and construction services.
  • Shell: energy and petrochemical.
  • Siemens: electrification and automation technology.

We briefly looked at a couple of the research findings:

1. Project purpose and intent – addressing:

Vision; deliverables, outcomes, benefits; success; aligning project strategy with business strategy; direction, change, inspiration, goals; clarity; sharing knowledge; managing emergence; innovation. This was broken into 3 areas:

  • Self – understanding self; strengths, weaknesses, capabilities, touch points, experience.
  • Project Organisation – creating the structure and processes within which you can operate successfully.
  • Project People – establishing, building and developing the project team through which the project is delivered.

2. Project Leadership – the 8 ‘survival skills’:

  • Anticipating – being prepared for what could knock the project off course next.
  • Judgement and decision-making – making timely decisions with incomplete information.
  • Seeing it all – understanding the totality of what is going on inside and outside the project.
  • Building credibility and confidence – belief in the leadership and the team.
  • Organisationally intelligent – knowing when and how to engage with the organisation.
  • Learning – being open-minded; reflecting on and developing own performance and that of the team.
  • Conflict resolution and collaboration – building a common purpose despite the rules.
  • Creating the project culture and environment – deliberately defining and creating the culture and environment to succeed.

We noted that the research had then set out 3 levels of capability maturity for each of the 8 ‘survival skills’ though time prohibited our review of them.

A new term for Russel was ‘phenomenographic research’, which was one of the aspects used in the research, and in layman’s terms means an alternate approach.

It was a rapid transit through but the attendees were very gracious and stayed with me throughout, several staying on afterwards to ask questions, which was hugely encouraging, especially the students from Sunderland and Northumbria Universities who were keen to absorb and learn as much as possible.

On a personal note, having mentored the branch committee for a few years during less glamorous times for the branch it was great to see so many in attendance. That was great testament to the work of many over time led by previous and current chairs and the committee members – congratulations all and long may the rewards be reaped as you share the great messages about PM land.

The presented slides

Event and report by Russel Jamieson
APM People Specific Interest Group committee member


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