It can be tempting to flex your fingers and assign yourself a project task. And why wouldn’t you? It keeps your skills sharp, gets tasks done faster, and earns the respect of your team as a manager willing to “get down in the weeds.”
In reality, however, your name shouldn’t be on the resource list at all. As project manager, you’ve got a bucket load of items on your own task list that nobody else on the team can do.
Plus, you know. A whole bunch of other reasons:
Your Team Does it Better
You hired your team for their expertise and skill in performing project tasks. So why are you, someone not as talented in those skills, performing it instead of them? Granted, some tasks don’t require all that much skill, but the phrase, “if you want a job done right, do it yourself,” is a bad project management philosophy.
And if you are more talented than your resources, you should probably be spending time teaching them how to do tasks, and not doing them yourself.
There’s a military aphorism that goes, “a general who picks up a sword is nothing more than a common soldier.” And while that comparison is a little extreme for project management, the idea behind it still applies.
Project managers who spend their time on minor tasks risk losing sight of the big picture. This tunnel vision may blind you to other project issues and prevent you from leading your team effectively.
Who Manages the Manager?
When I was a project coordinator, my team lead and I would shudder whenever the PM would decide “pitch in”. Items I sent over for the manager’s attention would pile up while he pecked away at bugs, and anything the project manager did would have to be rechecked by my team lead because, frankly, the project manager’s coding skills were a little stale.
Don’t get me wrong, my project manager great. He kept us motivated, organized, and efficient; everything a good project manager should do. His efforts were invaluable—within his role. But every time he stepped out of it, nobody had the heart—or seniority—to tell him to leave the programming to his team members and to focus on his own task lists.
I’m not saying project managers should never help out. There are times when such help is valuable—even required. But it should always be a last resort, when there’s no money to hire another team member or everyone else is too busy.
Instead, as project manager you should focus on delivering value the best way you can—by keeping the high level view and managing the team’s performance and development. If you do your job right, then there won’t be any need for you to help out with tasks at all.
Image credit, Flickr, Scott Akerman