A great project manager taps into the power of introspection

When making tough decisions. First, stop and discover the power of introspection.

I’ve just got back from two days at Deliver Conf, a conference for people who strive to lead, inspire and deliver value with their teams.

My main takeaway is never underestimate the power of introspection

the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes.

By knowing ourselves well, we can also know and lead our teams better.

I’m confident employees could also benefit from using some of the techniques below to ensure they hire the right person for the job.

Day 1 started with a day of workshops.

In the morning I attended Shahina’s workshop entitled ‘Not everything is a nail: choosing the right tool for the job’.

Unlike many PMs, I don’t geek out on tools but I was pleasantly surprised where this workshop took us.

We started the workshop with a lightweight quiz, Shahina showed various ways of working, methodologies, preferred tools etc on a slide and every time we saw something on as slide that we associated our style of PM with, we stuck a sticker which matched the colour of the slide in our notebook, unbeknown to us at the time this was painting a picture of how we like to lead and manage projects.

Each colour related to a different leadership style.

Majority blue = ‘Team Captain’. A PM who generally speaking understands the tech, is willing to pitch in and can explain complex ideas but tends to be more interested in doing the work than reporting on the work. Sounds about right.

You might be wondering what this has to do with tools, well, organisations have personalities too.

The point being that a tool that works very well for one agency may not work for your team, in order to successfully integrate a tool into your practice, you need to evaluate it before integrating it.

We individually wrote down problems we were trying to solve, I wrote down “My team members want to know if they’re doing a good job”. Shahina then taught us how to approach finding a tool through applying a user need approach i.e. starting with identifying our requirements first, then selecting a tool, then evaluating it. If at this point it’s not doing the job you initially intended it to do, don’t roll it out across your team try another tool and start the process again. Taking this approach will save you a whole lot of time and money.

The afternoon session “Perfect your leadership and communication styles” was led by Susanne Madsen.

Susanne started by explaining the six types of leadership:

  • Visionary — inviting people to come on a journey with you / “come with me”
  • Coaching — unlocking potential / “you can do it!”
  • Democratic — sharing the problem / “what shall we do?”
  • Affiliative — providing harmony / “how are you feeling?”
  • Pace Setting — showing the standard / “copy me”
  • Directive — giving direction / “do what I say”

We tend to be a combination of all the above. A short questionnaire indicated our own individual makeup of the above styles, I came out as ‘Democratic’, closely followed by Coaching, Affiliative and Visionary.

Later in the workshop, we completed another questionnaire which focused on our social styles, people normally fall into one of these four.

  • Analytical — conscientiousness (17)
  • Amiable — steady (31)
  • Expressive — influence (9)
  • Driver — Dominance (3)

I’ve included a number next to each of these areas to illustrate the breakdown of my score. The total score was sixty.

My high ‘Amiable’ score places me on the ‘people-oriented’ spectrum of project management, motivated by internal factors rather than time and detail.

Susanne suggested doing this exercise with our team members to learn how best to interact and motivate with team members who have a different style to ourselves.

This exercise shouldn’t be one way though, Susanne challenged us to have direct 1–1’s with our team and ask for feedback on our own style. She also suggested we ask our team where they would position us in the grid above, as how we perceive ourselves is often very different to how others perceive us.

Although crude your social style, can really change how you approach managing projects and people.

I think more employees should consider using the above as a conversation starter when hiring. When hiring, companies often don’t consider their real need for a PM “i.e. we need someone to make sure stuff gets done” is very different to “we need someone to build the right environment to foster and support self-organised teams”.

The first would require someone who has a pace setting, directive leadership style and is on the more controlled / assertive spectrum in terms of their social style whereas if you’ve got a self-motivated team who are self-organising you probably require someone who has a strong coaching and visionary leadership style.

One size doesn’t fit all. If it’s a tool or a new team member. Pick wisely.

How? Start with introspection.