How did we come to know what we know? Obviously, our first answer would be that we learned things in schools and universities and later acquired some practical experience in the job market. After that, we did our best to keep ourselves updated about the state of the art, visiting trainings and reading articles.
But I’m not talking about that. What I’m asking is how did you come to acquire your style of working, your working patterns, the certain way you do things – they didn’t teach you those things in the university. Some PM’s prefer micromanagement, going into every little detail, while others put their faith into the Team they’ve built. You can find those who see personal communication as irrelevant in the technology age, as well as those who just like to talk to people. The point is that somewhere during your career you acquired Your Personal PM style.
So let’s ask again: how did it happen and why knowing it is important?
The truth behind my question is pretty simple: most of us learn our working style (as well as any other style) while copying others. Sometimes it’s the Manager at our first job, or our first mentor, or may be even some public figure that draws our attention. The point is, we do not choose our style consciously, rationally matching it to our abilities and inclinations. Instead we somewhat blindly start copying others before we have the professional parameters to judge the practicality of our model choice. However, if several years later someone asks us why we do things that way, we are sure that this is the logical way of doing it, because why else have we been doing it for so much time?
This situation could create very unhealthy circumstances for some PM’s. For example, think about a PM who’s a perfect organizer, but is naturally not too good with people. However, as her mentor was a very social person, she sees personal interaction as an irreplaceable part of Project Management and tries to solve everything through talking. Trying to talk to people about important things despite feeling uncomfortable about it can hardly achieve the desired effect, so this PM’s Team is falling apart despite her excellent organizational skills.
If she were to acknowledge that her personal style doesn’t suit her with the same clearness that she looks at her clothes in the mirror before going to work, she may have put more focus into utilizing today’s technological possibilities of working from a distance. Having a personal style that suits her would be much more beneficial for this PM.
We can also think of an opposite example.
Think about a PM who’s very charismatic and driven, easily being able to drive other people around him. But his first Manager was a very meticulous and distanced person, who was used to communicate everything through e-mails. Trying to emulate him, out of presumption that “this is how REAL MANAGERS work”, our PM struggles to put the same level of enthusiasm that he expresses in personal interactions into his mails, but to no avail. In the eyes of others his mails seem chaotic and incoherent, lacking the expected point by point structure. Sometimes he even manages to unknowingly offend others with his e-mails because he’s used to “getting away with things” while talking face to face. In the end, our PM ends up very frustrated because despite the knowledge that social skills are supposed to be his forte, the results of his interactions with others through mail are opposite from what he would expect.
Of course, developing his own personal style of Management, based on his charisma and ability to read non-verbal cues would have suited him much better. By talking to people personally or in formal meetings this PM will achieve excellent results because of his ability to emotionally engage and motivate others, understand their needs and complaints and to get a better deal through direct negotiation.
If we could just stop for a second, and try to remember the circumstances of acquiring our personal style, we would be able to measure it on the scale of performance at today’s circumstances and change it if it needs changing.
It’s OK to copy others who you regard as successful at what they do, but you shouldn’t do it blindly, without relating to your personal inclinations and working circumstances. Not everyone can develop his or her own style from scratch, but at least we could choose our role models wisely.
So don’t forget: if you want to manage your projects like a Boss, you should do it with style! Preferably, your own 🙂