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Best Practices

When Should You Switch Management Styles?

Every single project manager has his own management style. These usually work well enough to get the job done, and if it ain′t broke, don′t fix it.

But when it is broke, how can you tell?

We all need a mirror to look at ourselves. And in project management, our team is the mirror. Our team is the reflection of our management style, and if we see trouble, we need to consider the possibility that we′re responsible.

Here are a few signs to watch out for:

The Team Digs their Heels In

What does a leader do if their team doesn′t want to follow? For that matter, what does a team do if their leader isn′t taking them somewhere they want to go? They drag their feet. They disagree. Whether it′s quiet resistance or open rebellion, your team′s resistance against one idea could easy bleed into other things if you don′t listen.

Your team is composed of some pretty smart people (otherwise you wouldn′t have hired them in the first place), and if they′re resisting, there′s got to be a reason for it. Find out the reason for their resistance. If it′s justified, address the issue and show them you value their judgment. If it′s not, tell them so and explain why your way is a good idea.

You Become the Bottleneck

You know the saying, “if you want a job done right, do it yourself”? Well, leaders who do this management style will end up doing everything themselves. Everything has to pass through your hands for review or approval, and until scientists come up with a cloning device, you′re not going to be able to handle it all. Work will pile up, and the project pace will slow down. Not only is this inefficient; it′s insulting to your team.

If you don′t trust your employees to do a good job, then you need to look at how you′re hiring them. Granted, a lot of work will need oversight, but every officer has a sergeant, and you should too. Delegate. Groom potential leaders and give them more responsibility. You′ll be surprised at what people can do if you show them trust and appreciation.

Your Employees Lead the Team, Not You

While a little bit of trust is a great thing, too much can kill you. Laissez-faire or the “hands-off” management style is possibly one of the quickest ways to a failed project.

Delegate, but don′t get too comfortable. Even if things are chugging along fairly well without you, there are still some useful things you can do.

Deadlines Slip–and No One Cares

You miss your targets. So what? The client is furious. Who cares?

Apathy is the deadliest kind of poison in an organization, and is a symptom of larger problems. It happens when employees get so jaded and beaten down over an issue that they lose any will to work, because they know it won′t make a difference.

First thing you need to figure out is what they′re jaded over. If it′s you, then that′s the simple part. You can correct your own behavior, as difficult as that may be. But if it′s something within the larger organization, like HR policies or the process, your hands might be tied. But that doesn′t mean it′s not worth the effort. Show them you care, and maybe they will, too.


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