A couple of days ago I came across this checklist created by Pat Didomenico for Business Management Daily. Although it’s not targeted at project professionals, it’s targeted to bosses and managers in general, and I thought it might be interesting to see how everyone scores.
With that in mind, take a look in the mirror and add up the behaviors you feel confident that you exhibit on a regular basis:
___ 1. Guide, don’t control. Don’t take a completely hands-off approach, but don’t micromanage either. Explain what needs to get done, but don’t dictate exactly how you want it done.
___ 2. Utilize team strengths. All of your team members have something to offer. Identify, recognize and cultivate their specific skills.
___ 3. Empower the team. Give them the tools they need to succeed and the opportunities to learn new skills.
___ 4. Trust. Don’t second-guess team members’ abilities. Believe that you hired good personnel.
___ 5. Take an active interest in team members as individuals. Inquire about their families and hobbies. Remember their birthdays. Offer condolences when necessary.
___ 6. Offer praise. Be quick to give a compliment for a job well done.
___ 7. Respect the team. Your position of authority doesn’t excuse belittling, abusing or humiliating workers, no matter how unintentional. Check that your tone isn’t condescending or parental, especially when giving instructions or critiques.
___ 8. Admit shortcomings and ask for help. There is no shame in admitting that some on the team are more skilled in a particular area than you. Asking for help shows that you respect their knowledge.
___ 9. Have integrity. Avoid a “do as I say and not as I do” attitude. Hold yourself to the same standards to which you hold everyone else. Give credit where credit is due. For instance, if you use an idea from someone in a proposal you submit to your boss, give them credit.
___ 10. Learn from your mistakes. It’s not enough to admit when you make mistakes. Learn not to repeat them. Otherwise, people are going to consider your admissions of error and accompanying apologies as nothing more than lip service.
___ 11. Don’t play the blame game. In the face of adversity, look to solve the problem, not place blame. Team members value knowing that you have their backs. That doesn’t mean you should insulate them against deserved discipline. Just don’t throw anyone under the bus when they make honest mistakes.
___ 12. Give the team a voice. Whenever possible, let them have a say in decisions that directly impact them. Also, ask them for feedback. If you cannot implement their suggestions, explain why.
___ 13. Listen, really listen, to what people are saying. Sometimes, you have to read between the lines or listen for what’s not said.
___ 14. Keep everyone in the loop. Let them know when, why and how decisions are made. Also, explain the reasons behind new policies or changes to existing policies.
___ 15. Keep things in perspective. Don’t go crazy over something trivial. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in a week from now?” If not, it might be best to just let it go.
___ 16. Don’t waste peoples’ time. Call meetings only when absolutely necessary. Have a clear agenda and be organized. Also, recognize that team members have lives outside of work and give them the flexibility to live it.
___ 17. Compromise. Meeting people halfway goes a long way! Be careful, however, of compromising too often. If you do, they may start to think they can bend your will whenever they want, and, in the process, lose respect for your authority.
___ 18. Be blunt, but tactful. Don’t beat around the bush. Burying your message in small talk, for example, could result in the message getting lost.
___ 19. Hold everyone accountable, i.e., don’t play favorites. Not only will a failure to treat similarly situated team members similarly pit them against each other, but it could also result in a discrimination claim.
___ 20. Open your door, and walk out of it. It’s important for the team to know that your door is always open to them. But be careful of waiting for them to come to you. Make a habit of walking around and interacting with team members in their workspaces.
The most successful project leaders I’ve known over the course of my career consistently exhibit many (if not all) of these traits. How did you do?