Project Managers, Are You Boring?

A large part of my job – particularly during the evenings and weekends – involves reading reports, articles and statistics around project management.

The independent surveys all generally say the same thing. They tell us that successful project delivery rates are still rubbish, the reasons for project failure are the same as they’ve been for the last 15 years and that organisations still don’t understand the value of project management. 

Just once it’d be nice to read something a little bit more authentic, i.e. what people really say about project managers, so that we can better understand where we need to do more work.

One I hear a lot when I run my training programs is that more often than not a project manager can be, well, just a bit boring. You may even know one. They talk about PIDs, how great a previous organisation was and why ‘this organisation will never change’.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that all project managers are boring. Nor am I suggesting that project managers should be stand-up comedians or even that ‘boring’ is the right way to describe someone that doesn’t inspire. However, it would be nice to see more personality in our profession. After all, we’re in the people and relationship business, so it’s important to be engaging if we’re to deliver the transformation that organisations seek.

But how do you know if you’re boring? It’s pretty hard as it’s not a question we’re taught to ask others by our parents or teachers when we’re growing up. ‘Now Colin, I want you to take the milk money to the office and while you’re there, it’d be good to ask Mrs Brown whether she thinks you’re boring or not.’

Milk money. You read that right.

When we start work, it’s the kind of feedback that starts seeping in to our performance reviews:

‘Colin could be more enthusiastic’

‘I’d like to see Colin get more passionate about things’

‘It’d be good if Colin didn’t talk about his framework and templates and got on with motivating the team’.

You get the idea.

In a paper in 2001, project management researcher Dr Lynn Crawford stated ‘Once a project manager has achieved an entry level of project management knowledge, then more knowledge doesn’t make them more competent: it’s their personality and leadership style that does.’

In short, we don’t need more courses on methods, we need more leadership and personality.

And to improve both of those things we need more feedback. Lots of it and regularly. Either face-to-face or by using a tool such as ProjectNPS. After all, without knowing about the things that we don’t know about, we can’t affect the personal change necessary to develop the leadership style and personality required to get the job done.

In project management we need:

  • Stories fit for work-time, not bedtime
  • Humour that encourages creativity
  • Visions that stimulate the imagination
  • Workshops that are inclusive, not exclusive
  • Language that everyone can understand
  • Enthusiasm not apathy
  • Social interaction, not social avoidance.

While our IQ peaks around age 25, our emotional intelligence and personality never stops evolving. Project Managers need to ensure that they’re doing all they can do to be the most interesting, engaging version of themselves, at all times.

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