Do you have what it takes?

This week, we’re going to talk about project management. In any complex series of applications, you’re going to find project managers behind the scenes ensuring that tasks get done on time and on budget. You’ll find them in architectural projects, health care, automotive engineering, medicine and consumer electronics.Like any profession, you’ll find project managers that possess a great amount of skill as well as those who seem to simply warm a chair.  If you’ve had to interface with a project manager, then I’m certain that you have encountered good and bad and as a result have established your own opinion on the value that they have brought to the team. Despite  very clear criteria for what a project manager does, the title has been bastardized and mis-used so often, that people (in general) don’t appreciate the value of an effective project manager. I can’t say that I blame them.

My expectations for organizational leaders are:

  • they embrace the responsibility of being CEO of their project; comfortable with leading and communicating with their team, the customer, and senior management
  • they are adept at managing the complete financial status of the program, a complex and diverse timeline for the entire organization, and handling quality related issues from a number of different sources
  • they have vision to lead a team and have the ability to identify risks to the program success long before others

A significant part of what I do each day is developing effective teams – interviewing & selecting members, defining and refining tools, fostering an effective culture. During the short time that I afford myself to evaluate whether this person is going to be capable and a good fit for the company, I have a list of questions that I tailor to the individual based on their resume, and which is later refined as the interview proceeds.

Take a look at the video provided by Jennifer Witt at Afterwards, we’ll discuss each of the points that Jennifer makes during her presentation and see how they align to my personal expectations.
Okay, let’s get to it.
    1. Professional Development / Credentials: I’m less impressed with PMP (and other professional certifications) as I’ve run into far too many accredited PM’s that couldn’t manage themselves out of a parking lot, let alone the twists and turns that a $500M program is going to throw at them. I will agree on the topic of constant learning and self improvement. The best professionals never stop striving to make themselves better, and this should be some thing that comes through loud and clear during an interview.
    2. Conscious and Aware: Awareness of self and others is something that I would agree with. The ability to honestly understand what motivates your self and others will allow you to effectively manage the team.
    3. Mentorship: I’ve had some pretty phenomenal mentors during my career, and they have had a profound impact in who I am. The fact that somebody recognizes the importance of reaching out to others regularly is a good sign. That they now are taking on the responsibility to mentor others is a step towards being the leader that you’ll need them to be.
    4. Relationships: Witt goes on concerning the ability to build and maintain relationships. From a management perspective, you’re going to rely on others each and every day to reach your goals. Finding, cultivating, and supporting those relationships is central to your own future success, not to mention the success of the organization.
    5. Social – Interaction with others, both online and offline – blah, blah, blah. Either you have it or you don’t. We don’t need to waste any more time here.
    6. Mobility – In this age of phone & e-mail, I shouldn’t be surprised that I encounter so many executives who feel that they can manage from behind a desk. During an interview, I’ll ask what the candidates preferred means of communication is (e-mail or phone)… if they don’t correct me that there is a third option (face to face) then it’s a big strike against them and they’ll quickly be walking out the door. Get off your ass and engage people face to face!
    7. Available / Responsive – Being available is not as difficult as the being responsive portion of this item. During an interview, I’ll focus on specific examples of how the candidate is responsive to others… What I’m looking for is that the individual is able to establish boundaries, displays a penchant for accountability, and helps others to gain the answers that they need as opposed to solving the problem themselves.
    8. Collaborative – I agree with Witt that understanding the perspectives of others is a desirable skill. As a leader, what I’m looking for is an ability for building consensus amongst a diverse group, and an ability to be the catalyst that helps move things “off center” when the team hits a roadblock. This goes hand in hand with the next item.
    9. Decisiveness – Ultimately, I’m not just looking for the ability to make a decision, but to ensure that all factors have been considered and that the team has made a decision. More importantly, the PM should be driving the team towards implementation of the solution. Far too often, people will re-think the decision or be hesitant to pull the trigger on the solution to a tough problem… The successful leader is the person that can instill confidence in the team that the correct decision has been made and implement the solution immediately without dissension.
    10. Resolute – I’m not sure if I understand where Witt is heading with this item. And based on that, I would disagree somewhat. Certainly, the leader should be expecting that the decision has been made and is final, but not at the expense of the team feeling that a decision will not be reversed if data comes to light that could impact the success of the program.
    11. Communicate effectively – Again, I would not put this item on the list as I expect that this is the cost of entry for the position.
    12. Delegate – Again, the successful leader will know when and how to do this effectively or they they will either a). Burn Out, or (more likely) b). lose support of their team. See last week’s blog concerning setting expectations, and then drive the team to deliver on the tasks that are specific to them.
    13. Lead Teams / Manage Projects – The question that I normally ask a candidate is to define the tools that they use to manage projects. I’ve met my fair share of people that are able to bullshit their way through the standard “give me an example” type of question. In the end, I’m looking for details of how they manage cost,quality & time, and how they lead people. It’s easy to expect this item from any leader, but far more difficult to discern from a resume and short discussion.


Food for thought – go be intentional!


About Jeff

A long time resident of Southeastern Michigan, I am husband to the beautiful Trisha and father to three incredibly bright, compassionate, amazing young adults. I have been called husband, father, brother, friend, demon, scoundrel, team-mate, leader, misfit. I constantly seek personal and professional environments that encourage creativity, empower individuals, and foster excellence. is an opportunity to share thought and opinion based on my personal and professional experience. My passion for learning remains the driver to become a better friend, husband, and father. The focus of my professional efforts (and satisfaction in what I do) is developing effective teams and equipping others to become exceptional leaders. My personal mission statement: to inspire, to love, to promise, to share, to believe that nothing is impossible
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