Every now and then you end up on the other end of being a Project Manager. You may be involved in a project that is being implemented for your company from an outside vendor. Instead of being the manager of the project, you are the manager that is getting managed. It’s kind of a neat experience to go through…if the other project manager knows what they are doing.
You could compare it to driving a car. You are probably the person that drives your car the most. Everyone piles into your car when it’s time to go somewhere. They all take their assigned seats. You typically end up in the driver seat.
That’s OK, because you don’t mind driving and you’re used to it. Every now and then, you may get a break from driving by either letting someone else drive your car or riding with someone else. It’s kind of nice to take a break from driving…if the other driver knows what they are doing.
The ride can be less than pleasant if the other driver doesn’t know what they are doing. It even has the potential to end in disaster if the driver is brand new or inexperienced.
Let me recount a less than pleasant experience that I had…
…being managed as a project manager a few weeks ago. It’s not that anything disastrous came of the experience (yet), but it does shed some light on how other people perceive our role and effectiveness as a project manager.
My company was involved in a project that was being implemented by an outside vendor. The project wasn’t terribly complex and it was stated that, depending upon client responsiveness, the project would be complete in a matter of months. Sounded like the perfect project for me to sit back and enjoy the ride.
We had our first kickoff meeting over the phone. The owner of the other company introduced Jeff. Jeff was the project manager for the other company. He said Jeff would be taking care of everything from here on out. They had a project management system in place that would ensure things stayed on track.
“Great”, I thought to myself. “I’ll just sit back and watch how another project manager gets his job done.”
“Hi Jeff,” I said.
Nothing but silence.
“Ummm… Hi Jeff, nice to meet you,” I said.
“You too,” he barked back. Nothing more, nothing less. It was as if I had interrupted him from doing something much more important while he was on the phone. There was nothing about how much he was looking forward to working on this project, or an overview of the project management system they used, or even any questions about me. Nothing.
The owner continued with the meeting. You could hear a mono-syllabic grumble from Jeff every now and then as he was asked a question or two from the owner. He sounded distracted and didn’t offer anything of value to the conversation of his own accord. It was as if this meeting was an interruption to his day. He couldn’t wait for it to be over in order to get back to his “real” work.
I never made the connection with that project manager at that meeting. I chose to work with the owner from that point forward. The owner continued to redirect me to the project manager and whatever project management system he had in place, but, based upon first impressions I couldn’t see much value coming from my interactions with him.
It made me look at myself and ask questions about how I work as a project manager. I wondered how others perceived my presence and involvement on the projects I’m managing.
The following are some questions you could ask yourself about how engaged you are as a project manager.
- Do I engage during conference calls? A big part of a project manager’s job is to attend, moderate, and facilitate meetings about the projects they are managing. It gives them the information they need to update their project management systems.These meetings can become remote and may sometimes flip over into auto-pilot. It could be easy to “check out” of these meetings even while you are attending in person. You may be thinking about your next meeting or an upcoming presentation that needs to be finished.This ability to disengage is increased exponentially over the phone on a conference call. You can dial into the call, put your speaker on mute, and not even have to say a word! Sure, it may lead to awkward moments of silence when you have to say “I’m sorry, but could you repeat that?” It’s not that you couldn’t hear the question, it’s just that you DIDN’T hear the question… because you were doing something else.This is pandemic .Unfortunately, we’ve all experienced how disengaged people sometimes are on the call when they forget to put their phone back on mute. You can hear them answering the door, talking on another call, complaining to a bill collector about their electric bill being late, and a host of other very uncomfortable situations.Bottom line? Engage with the people on the call if you are on the invite. Ask questions. Answer questions. Act as if you are sitting across the room from the people that are on the call. They’ll appreciate the respect and you’ll get that much more from the conversation.
- Do I Acknowledge Receiving Important E-Mails? Another thing that was driving me crazy about working with this particular company was that days would pass before they let me know they received what I had sent them. Actually, the only way they acknowledged it was after I sent them a follow-up email asking “did you receive my earlier email?” They would then respond back that they received it and ask me when they could expect to hear back from me again.Part of your project management system for staying engaged should be to acknowledge important emails. The emphasis is on ‘important’. You don’t have to get caught in a cycle of incessant “Thank You’s”, but rather, acknowledge the fact that a major deliverable was provided that was on the critical path. Include the next steps and any other information that is relevant for where the project currently stands.
- Do I Attack this Project Like a Bulldog? Bulldogs are notorious for sinking their teeth into something and not letting go. Do you do the same with your projects? Do you sink your teeth into your projects and shake them around until they are complete?The only thing we’re talking about killing here is any apathy that may have crept up into a project by any of the stakeholders, team members, clients, or even yourself. It’s your job as a PM to implement a project management system that will drive your project to closure.Stay involved and visible between meetings. Never accept the status quo that something needs to be done a certain way because it has always been done that way. Look for areas where you can improve the process and project management system that is currently in place. Your actions will speak volumes as to how engaged you are and inspire others to do the same.
I’m in the middle of my current project with this company. We kicked the current project manager out of the car and the owner of the company and myself have been on a nice drive. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. Put a project management system in place that will keep you engaged at all levels of a project. Everyone that’s riding in the car with you will really appreciate you paying attention to the road!