Uncovering the Project Manager Blind Spots

Transitioning from individual contributor to project manager is one of the hardest phases of one’s career, especially for those of us with a technical background.

The habits and behaviors that made us successful in the past are unlikely to make us successful as project managers. Often, these become blind spots that we have to learn how to recognize and overcome, before they start holding us back and undermine our success.

The dangerous aspect of blind spots is that they are often automatic behaviors. It can literally take us years before we become aware of their impact. The key is to continuously assess our behavior to uncover them and have the courage to confront them.

The following are the top blind spots that I struggled with (and still do) in my journey as a project manager:

1.  The need to be the smartest person in the room

Before we became project managers, we were rewarded for coming up with the best solutions and having the best answers. We took pride in the mastery of our subject matter and made sure everybody knows it, especially in meetings. But as project managers, we are now measured by the accomplishments of our teams.

It can be tough to remember that it is no longer about us or how smart we are. It is about creating the supporting environment for our team members to shine and do their best work.

Let them be the smartest people in the room. Instead of competing with them, take pride in the fact that you made it possible for them to soar.

2.  Finding it difficult to say I don’t know

It takes real courage to admit that we don’t know the answer or have a solution. Because people look to us for answers, it can be very tempting to pretend we know the answer when we actually don’t. We will eventually get caught and undermine our credibility for a long time. Once we lose it, it can be extremely hard to restore people’s trust in us. We need to get in the habit of saying “I don’t know but I will find out” and be perfectly O.K with it.

3.  The need to fight and win every battle 

Because we have limited time and energy, we need to learn to pick our battles. Some battles are not worth fighting, if we can find a way around them. Some battles we are never going to win and we should not even try to fight them, if we want to stay alive. And some battles are not ours to fight.

The battles worth fighting for are the ones that have a win-win outcome. Your goal is to win the war by completing the project successfully.

4.  Trying to be everyone’s friend

Accept the fact that as a project manager you are no longer part of the “gang”. Sometimes you will have to be the “bad” guy and confront your team members and sometimes you will have to disappoint them. Your team will treat you differently and that should be O.K with you. That comes with the territory.

Don’t waste your time trying to earn their friendship and instead try to earn their respect by being the best project manager they have ever worked with.

5.  Not admitting when we are wrong

Whether from fear or lack of confidence, we are terrified to admit it when we are wrong. I agree that, in most organizations, admitting our mistake is not encouraged or rewarded. But that should not be an excuse.

The other misconception we have is that admitting mistake will lower our credibility. In reality, what will actually lower our credibility is continuing to defend a flawed idea or solution and insist that everybody is else is wrong.

If you find yourself doing this, there is only one way to save your reputation: Admit you are wrong.

6.  Blaming others for our mistake

Another blind spot, related to not admitting our mistakes, is to blame others for our mistakes. We rarely get away with this, and when we do, we can only do it so many times before we lose all credibility. We are not expected to be perfect but we are expected to own up to our mistakes and not pass the buck.

Take the blame for your own mistakes and even for those of your team, if they happen on your watch. The sooner you can take responsibility, the sooner you can move on to finding a solution.

7.  Avoiding conflict

Conflict is one of the inevitable realities of projects. There are times when avoiding conflict is the right strategy. This is fine as long as it is done on purpose. Unfortunately, some Project Managers adopt an avoid-conflict-at-all-cost mentality.

We avoid conflict because it is uncomfortable and emotionally draining and because we don’t think we are skilled at managing it. The funny thing is that this ends up creating the exact type of environment the Project Manager had hoped to prevent in the first place.

8.  Taking on too much responsibility

We become project managers because we can be counted on to get things done. Sometimes we do this not only because of the resources we have available to us but despite those resources we need but don’t have. We take on the responsibilities of others, in order to keep our project moving forward.

A common mistake I made many times in the past is to compensate for lack of a sponsor support by making critical project decisions by myself. When the project is successful, I get treated like a hero. When the project gets in trouble, everyone runs for cover and I am left holding the bag.

Don’t be a hero, share the burden of project decisions with your sponsor and project team.

9.  Hogging the Spotlight (and claiming credit for other’s accomplishment)

There is nothing that kills our team member’s motivation more than seeing their Project Manager minimize their contributions and take credit for their hard work. People resent it and will tolerate it only as long as they have no other choice. Don’t do this.

By celebrating and bringing attention to your team’s achievements, you are indirectly “tooting you own horn” and pointing out your competency as a leader.

10. Not asking for help

We all need help sometimes, but some project managers feel that others will see asking for help as a weakness. We do not have to handle everything on our own. We should take advantage of the resources available to us.

Not asking for help when we need it is a sign of professional immaturity. It will not only diminish our personal performance but it will also jeopardize our project and undermine our credibility in the long term.

We want our project team members to ask for help, when they need it. As Project Managers we need to model the behavior we want to see in others.

Uncovering our blind spots takes serious work. Confronting them takes tremendous courage. The good news is that they should not be thought of as weaknesses or permanent personality flaws. They are behaviors that, once we become aware of their negative impact, we can transform them into opportunities to improve our performance. The earlier in our project management career we can do this, the better our chances are for success.

In future posts, I plan to discuss these blind spots further. In the meantime, I would love to hear your take on these and others that I have not mentioned. Please leave a comment on this post or email me (samad at GuerrillaProjectManagement.com). I look forward to your feedback.

One Response to Uncovering the Project Manager Blind Spots
  1. […] about such blind spots recently on my blog http://www.GuerrillaProjectManagement.com in a post titled: “Uncovering the Project Manager Blind Spots” where I tackled in details the following typical blind […]

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://www.guerrillaprojectmanagement.com/uncovering-the-project-manager-blind-spots/trackback

Uncovering the Project Manager Blind Spots

Transitioning from individual contributor to project manager is one of the hardest phases of one’s career, especially for those of us with a technical background.

The habits and behaviors that made us successful in the past are unlikely to make us successful as project managers. Often, these become blind spots that we have to learn how to recognize and overcome, before they start holding us back and undermine our success.

The dangerous aspect of blind spots is that they are often automatic behaviors. It can literally take us years before we become aware of their impact. The key is to continuously assess our behavior to uncover them and have the courage to confront them.

The following are the top blind spots that I struggled with (and still do) in my journey as a project manager:

1.  The need to be the smartest person in the room

Before we became project managers, we were rewarded for coming up with the best solutions and having the best answers. We took pride in the mastery of our subject matter and made sure everybody knows it, especially in meetings. But as project managers, we are now measured by the accomplishments of our teams.

It can be tough to remember that it is no longer about us or how smart we are. It is about creating the supporting environment for our team members to shine and do their best work.

Let them be the smartest people in the room. Instead of competing with them, take pride in the fact that you made it possible for them to soar.

2.  Finding it difficult to say I don’t know

It takes real courage to admit that we don’t know the answer or have a solution. Because people look to us for answers, it can be very tempting to pretend we know the answer when we actually don’t. We will eventually get caught and undermine our credibility for a long time. Once we lose it, it can be extremely hard to restore people’s trust in us. We need to get in the habit of saying “I don’t know but I will find out” and be perfectly O.K with it.

3.  The need to fight and win every battle 

Because we have limited time and energy, we need to learn to pick our battles. Some battles are not worth fighting, if we can find a way around them. Some battles we are never going to win and we should not even try to fight them, if we want to stay alive. And some battles are not ours to fight.

The battles worth fighting for are the ones that have a win-win outcome. Your goal is to win the war by completing the project successfully.

4.  Trying to be everyone’s friend

Accept the fact that as a project manager you are no longer part of the “gang”. Sometimes you will have to be the “bad” guy and confront your team members and sometimes you will have to disappoint them. Your team will treat you differently and that should be O.K with you. That comes with the territory.

Don’t waste your time trying to earn their friendship and instead try to earn their respect by being the best project manager they have ever worked with.

5.  Not admitting when we are wrong

Whether from fear or lack of confidence, we are terrified to admit it when we are wrong. I agree that, in most organizations, admitting our mistake is not encouraged or rewarded. But that should not be an excuse.

The other misconception we have is that admitting mistake will lower our credibility. In reality, what will actually lower our credibility is continuing to defend a flawed idea or solution and insist that everybody is else is wrong.

If you find yourself doing this, there is only one way to save your reputation: Admit you are wrong.

6.  Blaming others for our mistake

Another blind spot, related to not admitting our mistakes, is to blame others for our mistakes. We rarely get away with this, and when we do, we can only do it so many times before we lose all credibility. We are not expected to be perfect but we are expected to own up to our mistakes and not pass the buck.

Take the blame for your own mistakes and even for those of your team, if they happen on your watch. The sooner you can take responsibility, the sooner you can move on to finding a solution.

7.  Avoiding conflict

Conflict is one of the inevitable realities of projects. There are times when avoiding conflict is the right strategy. This is fine as long as it is done on purpose. Unfortunately, some Project Managers adopt an avoid-conflict-at-all-cost mentality.

We avoid conflict because it is uncomfortable and emotionally draining and because we don’t think we are skilled at managing it. The funny thing is that this ends up creating the exact type of environment the Project Manager had hoped to prevent in the first place.

8.  Taking on too much responsibility

We become project managers because we can be counted on to get things done. Sometimes we do this not only because of the resources we have available to us but despite those resources we need but don’t have. We take on the responsibilities of others, in order to keep our project moving forward.

A common mistake I made many times in the past is to compensate for lack of a sponsor support by making critical project decisions by myself. When the project is successful, I get treated like a hero. When the project gets in trouble, everyone runs for cover and I am left holding the bag.

Don’t be a hero, share the burden of project decisions with your sponsor and project team.

9.  Hogging the Spotlight (and claiming credit for other’s accomplishment)

There is nothing that kills our team member’s motivation more than seeing their Project Manager minimize their contributions and take credit for their hard work. People resent it and will tolerate it only as long as they have no other choice. Don’t do this.

By celebrating and bringing attention to your team’s achievements, you are indirectly “tooting you own horn” and pointing out your competency as a leader.

10. Not asking for help

We all need help sometimes, but some project managers feel that others will see asking for help as a weakness. We do not have to handle everything on our own. We should take advantage of the resources available to us.

Not asking for help when we need it is a sign of professional immaturity. It will not only diminish our personal performance but it will also jeopardize our project and undermine our credibility in the long term.

We want our project team members to ask for help, when they need it. As Project Managers we need to model the behavior we want to see in others.

Uncovering our blind spots takes serious work. Confronting them takes tremendous courage. The good news is that they should not be thought of as weaknesses or permanent personality flaws. They are behaviors that, once we become aware of their negative impact, we can transform them into opportunities to improve our performance. The earlier in our project management career we can do this, the better our chances are for success.

In future posts, I plan to discuss these blind spots further. In the meantime, I would love to hear your take on these and others that I have not mentioned. Please leave a comment on this post or email me (samad at GuerrillaProjectManagement.com). I look forward to your feedback.

One Response to Uncovering the Project Manager Blind Spots
  1. […] about such blind spots recently on my blog http://www.GuerrillaProjectManagement.com in a post titled: “Uncovering the Project Manager Blind Spots” where I tackled in details the following typical blind […]

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://www.guerrillaprojectmanagement.com/uncovering-the-project-manager-blind-spots/trackback

Uncovering the Project Manager Blind Spots

Transitioning from individual contributor to project manager is one of the hardest phases of one’s career, especially for those of us with a technical background.

The habits and behaviors that made us successful in the past are unlikely to make us successful as project managers. Often, these become blind spots that we have to learn how to recognize and overcome, before they start holding us back and undermine our success.

The dangerous aspect of blind spots is that they are often automatic behaviors. It can literally take us years before we become aware of their impact. The key is to continuously assess our behavior to uncover them and have the courage to confront them.

The following are the top blind spots that I struggled with (and still do) in my journey as a project manager:

1.  The need to be the smartest person in the room

Before we became project managers, we were rewarded for coming up with the best solutions and having the best answers. We took pride in the mastery of our subject matter and made sure everybody knows it, especially in meetings. But as project managers, we are now measured by the accomplishments of our teams.

It can be tough to remember that it is no longer about us or how smart we are. It is about creating the supporting environment for our team members to shine and do their best work.

Let them be the smartest people in the room. Instead of competing with them, take pride in the fact that you made it possible for them to soar.

2.  Finding it difficult to say I don’t know

It takes real courage to admit that we don’t know the answer or have a solution. Because people look to us for answers, it can be very tempting to pretend we know the answer when we actually don’t. We will eventually get caught and undermine our credibility for a long time. Once we lose it, it can be extremely hard to restore people’s trust in us. We need to get in the habit of saying “I don’t know but I will find out” and be perfectly O.K with it.

3.  The need to fight and win every battle 

Because we have limited time and energy, we need to learn to pick our battles. Some battles are not worth fighting, if we can find a way around them. Some battles we are never going to win and we should not even try to fight them, if we want to stay alive. And some battles are not ours to fight.

The battles worth fighting for are the ones that have a win-win outcome. Your goal is to win the war by completing the project successfully.

4.  Trying to be everyone’s friend

Accept the fact that as a project manager you are no longer part of the “gang”. Sometimes you will have to be the “bad” guy and confront your team members and sometimes you will have to disappoint them. Your team will treat you differently and that should be O.K with you. That comes with the territory.

Don’t waste your time trying to earn their friendship and instead try to earn their respect by being the best project manager they have ever worked with.

5.  Not admitting when we are wrong

Whether from fear or lack of confidence, we are terrified to admit it when we are wrong. I agree that, in most organizations, admitting our mistake is not encouraged or rewarded. But that should not be an excuse.

The other misconception we have is that admitting mistake will lower our credibility. In reality, what will actually lower our credibility is continuing to defend a flawed idea or solution and insist that everybody is else is wrong.

If you find yourself doing this, there is only one way to save your reputation: Admit you are wrong.

6.  Blaming others for our mistake

Another blind spot, related to not admitting our mistakes, is to blame others for our mistakes. We rarely get away with this, and when we do, we can only do it so many times before we lose all credibility. We are not expected to be perfect but we are expected to own up to our mistakes and not pass the buck.

Take the blame for your own mistakes and even for those of your team, if they happen on your watch. The sooner you can take responsibility, the sooner you can move on to finding a solution.

7.  Avoiding conflict

Conflict is one of the inevitable realities of projects. There are times when avoiding conflict is the right strategy. This is fine as long as it is done on purpose. Unfortunately, some Project Managers adopt an avoid-conflict-at-all-cost mentality.

We avoid conflict because it is uncomfortable and emotionally draining and because we don’t think we are skilled at managing it. The funny thing is that this ends up creating the exact type of environment the Project Manager had hoped to prevent in the first place.

8.  Taking on too much responsibility

We become project managers because we can be counted on to get things done. Sometimes we do this not only because of the resources we have available to us but despite those resources we need but don’t have. We take on the responsibilities of others, in order to keep our project moving forward.

A common mistake I made many times in the past is to compensate for lack of a sponsor support by making critical project decisions by myself. When the project is successful, I get treated like a hero. When the project gets in trouble, everyone runs for cover and I am left holding the bag.

Don’t be a hero, share the burden of project decisions with your sponsor and project team.

9.  Hogging the Spotlight (and claiming credit for other’s accomplishment)

There is nothing that kills our team member’s motivation more than seeing their Project Manager minimize their contributions and take credit for their hard work. People resent it and will tolerate it only as long as they have no other choice. Don’t do this.

By celebrating and bringing attention to your team’s achievements, you are indirectly “tooting you own horn” and pointing out your competency as a leader.

10. Not asking for help

We all need help sometimes, but some project managers feel that others will see asking for help as a weakness. We do not have to handle everything on our own. We should take advantage of the resources available to us.

Not asking for help when we need it is a sign of professional immaturity. It will not only diminish our personal performance but it will also jeopardize our project and undermine our credibility in the long term.

We want our project team members to ask for help, when they need it. As Project Managers we need to model the behavior we want to see in others.

Uncovering our blind spots takes serious work. Confronting them takes tremendous courage. The good news is that they should not be thought of as weaknesses or permanent personality flaws. They are behaviors that, once we become aware of their negative impact, we can transform them into opportunities to improve our performance. The earlier in our project management career we can do this, the better our chances are for success.

In future posts, I plan to discuss these blind spots further. In the meantime, I would love to hear your take on these and others that I have not mentioned. Please leave a comment on this post or email me (samad at GuerrillaProjectManagement.com). I look forward to your feedback.

One Response to Uncovering the Project Manager Blind Spots
  1. […] about such blind spots recently on my blog http://www.GuerrillaProjectManagement.com in a post titled: “Uncovering the Project Manager Blind Spots” where I tackled in details the following typical blind […]

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://www.guerrillaprojectmanagement.com/uncovering-the-project-manager-blind-spots/trackback