Leadership: Sell Versus Tell for Successful Projects
Leadership is a journey. Events in our personal and professional lives shape us as leaders. In a heartbeat, how we lead and its impact can change our lives, those of our loved ones, and the people around us. The most trying of these events come in our personal lives. Personal events, such as serious illness or death of a loved one, are high-stress, emotional situations where we must be leaders with little or no authority. A skill that is also indispensable in the office, for instance, when working for a difficult boss, being fired, or any number of other circumstances where we have little or no control. These “leadership passages” shape us as leaders. Understanding how these situations affect our leadership strategies, traits, and actions that make up our leadership style, helps us overcome seemly insurmountable challenges.
As project managers, you need to change your leadership style based on the situation. The need for a situational style is more important in project management than in nearly any other business position. Commanding the six core strategies—directive, expert, consensus, engaging, coaching, and affiliative—allows you to build the style most appropriate for the conditions surrounding project.
Leaders make decisions. This requires a core set of actions to gather the best information, hear out the concerns of others, and making a decision that everyone will follow—even if they do not necessarily agree with the decision. This session covers the four core leadership actions (listening, dialog and discussion, selling a vision, and elimination of blame) that are critical in your journey as a leader. We discuss and practice these actions in small role-playing groups.
One cornerstone of leadership is our personality traits. Project managers need to develop and hone nine core traits—accountability, ethics, inspiration, decisiveness, awareness, empathy, confidence, focus, and humility—to ensure they can lead our diverse work forces. This track session is a deep dive into these traits using a roundtable discussion format—the audience voices there opinion of what the trait is and the presenter moderates the discussion and gives guidance on what that means in a business setting.
The project team has an obligation to tell leadership or the customer when they think the direction of the project is wrong. However, at some point the team must follow management. They have to trust management has the insight to know what needs to be done. I call this "Finding Religion." People must act on faith believing the direction is best for the company. This is often contrary to data that is in front of the team and indicates another direction.
Have you ever had a boss that simply wants to stand in your way? They avoid making even the smallest decision, never providing enough information to understand their objections. It is more common than most of us would imagine. In fact, this behavior is the central to every sales interaction. Even though you may be repulsed at thinking of yourself as "selling" to your boss, that is exactly what is required with any idea you are pushing. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to employ the same techniques used to sell large systems. If you think this is rubbish, as one of my esteemed readers once eloquently said, I will posit that you are already using sales techniques, just the wrong ones—the ones car dealers use. Changing this approach will subdue your unruly boss
A project manager's job is to deliver value. Achieving the original schedule, budget, and features is meaningless if the customer does not receive value. As with all simple statements, this much easier said than accomplished. Projects managers must assemble adaptable teams that use flexible, lean methodologies. Arrogantly selling the latest technology or tool is narcissistic. Focus on the customer. Be vigilant at ensuring the information is always available for the customer to reassess the project's value and for the project team to reevaluate their proposal.