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Three Habits of Effective Project Leadership & Six Keys to Successful Project-Based Work

by Ty Kiesel

Three Habits of Effective Project Leadership

For any organization doing project based work, the need for leadership and collaboration is critical. Unfortunately, for many organizations, developing leadership is a challenge—there are never enough leaders in an organization and getting people to collaborate is often a challenge.

Here are three leadership principles that can help you effectively manage project teams in today’s complicated business climate:

1. Lead Yourself First. My colleagues and I used to call this walking the talk. If you don’t practice what you preach, how can you lead others.

2. Encourage Ownership. The more people feel of sense of ownership, the more responsibility team members will feel for the outcome. Identifying what a positive or negative outcome means to the team will encourage a sense of ownership.

3. Follow-Up. I don’t think it’s any secret, but leaders get the behaviors they reinforce.

It really doesn’t matter what type of project based work you do or your particular work management methodology, project managers who spend time learning and implementing leadership skills are more successful than those that don’t. As more and more organization turn to project and portfolio management best practices to make their organizations more efficient, the need for skilled project managers—those who know how to lead people as well as manage process—will continue to grow.

What are you doing to improve your leadership skills?

Six Keys to Successful Project-Based Work

“Wax on, right hand. Wax off, left hand. Wax on, wax off. Breath in through nose, out the mouth. Wax on, wax off. Don’t forget to breathe, very important.”

In the 1984 movie The Karate Kid, Mr. Miagi, an apartment complex maintenance man, becomes an unlikely karate teacher for Daniel Laruso, a high-school kid in trouble with a bunch of local karate-bullies. With an unorthodox teaching style, Daniel-san’s first karate lessons includes waxing Mr. Miagi’s cars—all four of them.

So what does this have to do with project based work?

Without giving a play-by-play of the whole story, Mr. Miagi taught Daniel the basic techniques and skills that would allow him to defend himself. I’ve observed that there are some basic project management fundamentals that are common to any successful project and portfolio management methodology.

Successful project managers focus on what matters most. Here are six suggestions:

1. Make sure the project has a strong sponsor. Every project needs a sponsor who will evangelize the value of the initiative throughout the life of the project.

2. Make sure the project is adequately funded. The temptation is to take whatever funding is offered, but without adequate funding—it’s usually the project manager who ends up in hot water when the project fails for lack of financial resources.

3. Pick the right team. Make sure the team includes all the skills that will be needed for success. Just because someone is available, doesn’t always mean they are the best to work on your project.

4. Plan. Planning is more than just preparing to deliver the final product. It should involve a continual process of evaluation and adjustment.

5. Know the end before you begin. Make sure you know what the outcome of a successful project is before you start. What does “done” mean? Financial experts call this an “exit plan.”

6. Prepare for change. The very nature of projects create change. Whether it’s a new product or an improvement in process or technology. Makes sure to prepare for the change.

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