Not superheroes

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We Are Project Managers, Not Superheroes

Angyne J. Schock-Smith, PMP Phillipsburg, New Jersey, USA

Here’s a tip that is useful if you’re a software project manager in Information Technology (IT) environments, but also transferrable to whatever type of projects you manage.

“We are Project Managers, Not Superheroes,” is part of my introductory routine when I deliver training on project management skills. When talking about the characteristics of a good project manager, my favorite line is, “Get out your capes, people! It takes a superhero to do all a software project manager must do, and to do it well.” However, since this comes early in the training, I have to offer some hope. So I say, “Okay, some of us mere mortals actually become good project managers. What’s the trick?”

I believe this trick has three parts.

1. Know your personal strengths and weaknesses.

2. Know the personal strengths and weaknesses of your team.

3. Use this knowledge to create complimentary partnerships with team members who possess strengths where you have gaps.

How can you get to know your personal strengths and weaknesses?

• Get out your copies of all the old personality or work behavior tests you’ve ever taken.

• Be honest as you extrapolate data from these old evaluations. Were you honest when you took the questionnaire? Does the “label” still fit, or have you grown and changed since that time? Which of the label’s associated strengths and weaknesses most accurately describe you right now?

• Don’t try to figure out which label would make the best project manager. There is no right answer to that question. A good project manager has to be flexible, i.e., be able to diagnose each situation and shift out of his/her comfort zone to respond in the most effective way.

• From your available data, create a fresh, current personal inventory of strengths and weaknesses. Keep it where you will always be able to find it and update it as you continue to learn more about yourself.

After that, the rest is downhill! Use an available strengths inventory to assess your team. Then, look for people on the team who have strengths in the areas listed on your personal weakness inventory.

For me, (an Expressive type , if you know the Social Styles types) my weakness is attention to detail. I’ll always need some one (an Analytical type) to keep me on track in that area! If you’re likely to try to please others more than you should, you may need someone to help you drive the project forward more forcefully than is in your comfort zone.

Make sure that you have teammates with complimentary skills work in partnership with you in areas where your weaknesses lie. But you don’t have to tell them that’s what you are doing, right? Keep some mystique about it and maybe you can convince the team that you are a Superhero. I won’t tell anyone otherwise.

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