In my career, I have played multiple roles. Just to mention few of them, I can think of developer, project manager, delivery Manager etc. Now why I am considering this, the simple reason behind this is when I was a developer, I used to see my manager to handle the team and also to take decisions about the tasks, leaves, timing to come to office and many other things. I was always in a state of mind that my manager’s role was one of the simplest role to play. And that was one kind of my motivation that I always wanted to climb the ladder and to move to the similar role. That will enable me to feel like a boss and also will have my power to decide and control over others. But gradually as i moved to project lead role, I started to work with my own team to guide and assign project work to them. I slowly started to understand all my team members are not same. Some of them are highly motivated, some of them need a push, few of them are very competent and obviously few of them need guidance. From that time I started to learn how to create a balance between them so that they come out with the desired expectations as per the project demands that means to complete within budget, meeting the schedule and providing the best quality.
What is the difference between a project manager and a people manager?
The simple answer to this is a successful project manager or a manager has to be a people manager too. As part of my role, I have taken multiple recruitment interviews for the organisation for different roles. Every role has its own set of expectations. Now whenever the interviews were for manager positions, the favorite question that I used to ask was what should be the roles and responsibilities of a project manager?
In 95% cases the the responses i received were the project manager should be responsible for maintaining the deliveries on time, within budget and within schedule. Also the project manager should be very much knowledgeable about risk management. The project managers should know how to handle the customers and stakeholders. So basically leaving few other responses, this is very clear that we would always like to focus on the deliverable part and also on the business partners like customers, business users to make them satisfied. I do agree with the responses as those are being our objectives but at the same time without a good people management skill, a winning team can never be built.
The basic problem is the way we have been grown in our organisation, people management is often neglected as we look for short term objectives. But if you think very carefully, you will understand in case if you already have played the role of a manager and handled a bigger team, the issues and in turn the significance of people management. Basically when we talk about a big, complex , long term or high demanding project we will not be able to continue to deliver it successfully until unless we are understanding the importance of one team. How you manage your team is also determining factor about how good a people manager you are.
Just for a thought, if the team is not feeling comfortable with you and if your team is always under pressure or the team is stressed how you can expect that they will give their best effort to meet the deadline. What happens when this is a bigger team the team members started feeling they are left out ,they are neglected and they started feeling like not being the part of the team. They will start to look for a project outside and even outside the organisation. Basic quality a manager should posses to become people manager is to unite the team to take out the best output.
Let us now understand what should be the different quality, the people manager should possess.
1. Good communication skill – the person should be able to communicate well, so that there is no gap.
2. Bonding– the person should be able to create a personal as well as professional bonding with each and every member of the team. I consider this to be one of the most important factors.
3. Conflict management – the more members you have in your team the chance will be more to have a conflict within the team. Now it is completely on you how you handle this conflict. Until unless you are not able to close this there will be a clash between the team members which will stop in exchanging information and also to support each other and which will definitely have a big impact on the project and that will surely be negative only. How you handle the conflict management is completely different discussion but in short you need to understand each and every member of your team.
4. Lead by example – responsibility of a manager is to prove to your team that you are holding this position because you are capable enough. There should not be any question coming out that an incompetent person has become the manager. Leading by example means in a pressure situation you cannot ask your team only to work additional hours but at the same time you also have to devote additional time to prove that the ownership is not lying with a single person but is being shared by all.
5. Mentor– You are expected to listen the problems or concerns of individual team members with showing your interest and empathy. None of them should be hesitant to reach you. You should be able to mentor, guide and teach them as and when necessary.
Now organisations started to emphasize on this people management role and started to identify and awarding the best people manager within it. When recruiting for the project manager’s role, candidates are now being tested how good they are to manage the conflict or how they can establish a good relationship within the team. It is nothing like that people manager can establish something in a very short period of time but depends on individual’s attitude and grows with the experience.
Even I have heard the story when some manager moved to a different project or to a different organisation, the whole team wanted to move along with the manager. This can be an example of a successful people manager. This can be a very long discussion but to summarize, a person will be proved to be a good people manager if more than 80% of the team members are ready to provide their best effort and also to come during weekend or odd hours to make the project successful just to see as a winning team.