Bad project managers create project cultures filled with stress, confusion, and little progress. Unfortunately, many of these individuals are not aware of their behaviors.
Let’s run through a list of eight things that all bad project managers have in common. And let’s talk about things to do to remedy these behaviors.
- Too many meetings. Some project managers keep their team members in meeting prison, and often, the meetings are things that could have been handled in other ways. This behavior leads to frustrated team members who are busy trying to get their project work completed. Things to do: Eliminate recurring meetings when possible. Eliminate status meetings – gather status information and share through status reports. Always ask yourself: Is there another way to handle something that does not involve a lengthy meeting? A quick conference call. An email. Instant messenger. A quick stand-up meeting.
- Too much documentation. Project managers are notorious for truckloads of documentation (that no one reads). Things to do: Document things succinctly. If there is a legitimate reason for a long document, provide a summary that allows people to quickly digest the most important points.
- Lack of trust. When there is a lack of trust, teams slow to a grinding halt. Things to do: In his book, The Speed of Trust, Steven Covey says that trust is created through two things: 1) good motives, and 2) delivering on what you’ve promised. If you have good motives but fail to deliver, people will lose trust in you. If you deliver but have bad motives, team members and stakeholders will not trust you. So, make sure your motives are right; then do what you say!
- Focus on self-promotion. There’s nothing more demotivating to team members than a project manager who continuously promotes themselves while giving the team little credit. Things to do: Ask a trusted mentor to help you overcome this issue. Look for ways to acknowledge and thank your team members for their hard work. When there are problems, take the high road and tell your stakeholders that you are responsible and what you will do to address the issues. When there is success, highlight the team member’s contributions and downplay yours.
- Poor listener. Great project managers know how to listen. Rather than interrupting in order to make a point, leaders listen with the intent of digging deeper and understanding the perspective of others. Things to do: Focus more on the person speaking. Make good eye contact. Ask appropriate follow-up questions that show empathy and concern.
- Poor delegation skills. Mark, a project manager, delegates much of his work to team members. Here’s the problem – team members are confused; they’re not sure of what is expected and when things are due. Things to do: Plan the delegation – write out and communicate what you are delegating, the level of authority being given, due dates, and when you will follow up. Let your team members know that you are available to discuss issues and to provide support.
- Weak facilitation skills. If you have attended Betty’s project meetings, you’ve seen a lot of one-way communication from Betty to her team members. She directs and rarely asks for input and ideas. Things to do: Plan your meetings with a clear agenda and questions that you intend to ask to engage the team. When asking for input, don’t let silence tempt you to speak prematurely; gives others time to think and respond. Affirm individuals when they respond.
- Failure to deal with problem team members. Another huge demotivating factor is when project managers fail to confront and resolve poor performance by individual team members. These problem members rarely complete tasks on time and always have an excuse. Things to do: Coach your team members one-on-one when you start having issues and clarify your expectations. Ask for a commitment from the individual to notify you as early as possible if anything starts to hinder their ability to complete the assigned tasks. If you are unable to get the desired responses over time, talk to your project sponsor and possibly human resources — depending on your company — about steps to replace the individual.
Do you possess any of these behaviors? Life is a journey of personal and professional development. Pick one or two things to work on in the coming week. If you can, share these things with a trusted friend or mentor who can discuss the results with you later.
Question: What other bad project management behaviors would you add to this list?