Five Tool Managers

In the world of leadership blogs encouraging managers to be leaders, I have a tiny niche where I encourage project managers to develop consulting skills.  This week, to balance my tendency to be a non-conformist with how most people look at things, I’ve been thinking I need to put all the leadership, management, and consulting skills into context with one another.  Maybe you will add my little niche idea to the more obvious links between project management and leadership if I can come up with a good sports analogy and a cool managerial model.  So, here’s the “Five Tool Player” model for successful management of projects and organizations.

A superior baseball player is often called a “Five Tool Player.”  This player excels at:

  • Hitting for average
  • Hitting for power
  • Running bases with speed
  • Throwing
  • Fielding

The epitome of five tool players is generally thought to be Willie Mays.  Mays is near the top of all these categories for all time.  Also, Willie Mays’ had an inspiring good natured approach to the game that drew respect and admiration.  Willie put it all together to make his team and his organization more successful.

How do we become the Willie Mays of project managers?  We should aspire to develop five skills as well.  Here’s a picture:

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Consulting and Project Management

As a project manager you often have a lot in common with a consultant.  Understanding how consultants contribute to organizational change and use influence to lead teams is valuable to us as project managers.  I talked about this a while back in “Split Personality” because I often fill both roles on different projects at the same time.   Dan Rockwell’s “Leadership Freak” post today brings me back to the topic.

I think there are two primary reasons a project manager should also be a skilled consultant.  First, as a project often changes its organization, a skilled consultant will find ways to engage people and build on their strengths to help bring about the change.  Consulting skills help us see opportunities beyond the stated scope of the project, and balance the strong project management focus on the triple constraints and risk mitigation, in order to achieve project objectives.  In “Split Personality” I covered this aspect of the project manager consultant overlap and offered some consulting approaches that can help project managers achieve a balance.

The second reason a project manager should have an understanding of consulting skills is that both roles often lead from behind.  As a project manager, you may have limited influence over your organization; or even over your team.  Your success depends more on your ability to influence than on your positional authority.  No other role depends more on the need to influence than that of consultant.  As consultants, we want to bring about positive change, but by definition we have to do so without authority.  Consultants have to influence their teams and their organizations because they can’t control them.  So, project managers and consultants share leadership challenges and depend on their ability to influence.  What skills help us get better at influence? Continue reading

Project Manager Magic

Project managers sometimes have to turn nothing into something.  Change everyone’s doubt into confidence.  Solve an unsolvable problem.  Pull a rabbit out of a hat.  Turn lead into gold.  Turn stones into soup.  This sounds like magic to me.  Appropriate for Halloween.  Here’s a story with scary risks turned into a happy ending by project manager magic.

My wife and I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. We didn’t meet until college, but we had one unique experience in common.  We learned about Halloween trick or treating in the 1950s in a town where trick or treat meant something different than anywhere else.  In Des Moines, we learned that the risk of tricks could become an opportunity for creative and constructive fun.

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Situational Collaboration

Sometimes idealism runs rampant.  At least in my brain.  My last post wrapped up with the comment: “we project managers need first to be collaborators through and through.”  Just the phrasing makes me think that I was deeply engaged in idealistic self indulgence.  Not a bad thing.  But, all things need balance.

Dan Rockwell’s “Leadership Freak” comes through again with a relevant reinforcement; and this time a counterpoint to balance my rant.  Today’s Leadership Freak post “When Collaboration Doesn’t Work” does a wonderful job helping us deal with the situation where we want to collaborate but it isn’t working.  Collaboration, at least the ideal of collaboration, isn’t always the right answer to getting where we need to go.

Read Dan’s post and then think about what it’s saying about collaboration.  I think it’s saying that collaboration, like leadership, is situational.  There is always an opportunity for collaboration, it just presents itself in different ways and calls for different approaches and levels.  Sometimes we collaborate fully when the parties share values, bring diverse perspectives and expertise, and are seeking a strategy for a long term solution.  Sometimes we are at odds in many ways but still need to get something done.  Here we may collaborate minimally, or hold at bay those who would use feigned collaboration as a weapon against progress.

I really like Dan’s post as it give us insight into how to temper an idealistic view of collaboration with the realities of the situation.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Glenn Briskin and “The Other Side of Risk” 2012

If Project Managers Ran the Presidential Debates

As a project manager, I find the presidential debates disturbing.  If I were going to hire one of the candidates to manage the challenging project of reforming any of the major issues we have to solve in the next four years, I couldn’t make the decision based on the debates.  In fact, there isn’t much the candidates are saying or posting now that is useful for that decision.

We need to see which candidate will be best able to bring out and deliver creative solutions.  Our issues have risks with probability too high and impacts too great.  Our future leaders have to be able to deal with this.  They have to see a path forward, be willing to compromise if necessary, and get things done.  I want the presidential debates to show me who can be the best at collaborating to get things done, not who can be the biggest A&*H@!#.

Looking only at their past experience and track records, I think I could vote for either one.

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