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Project Managers: How is Your Career Looking These Days?

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 9/20/2012

As project managers, we all started at the bottom, worked our way up and throughout tried to remain true to our leadership styles and management methods. Once we got some years under our belts, have we really changed, and are those changes good or bad?

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    An Ever-Changing Canvas

    The Picture of Dorian Gray With our PM degrees fresh in hand we are indeed newbies to the project leader world. Flashback to 1891 and Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray. For those who haven’t read this masterpiece, it’s basically about a very handsome man who sells his soul to stay handsome and beautiful yet allows his painted portrait to change based on how he lives his life. It’s pretty scary. In the end, the portrait of Dorian is hideous and ugly from all his life faults.

    So, if you sold out on your PM goals, how would your portrait look? Or better yet, have you already sold out and is the real you gone or lost in some scary backroom? Let’s take a look—I guarantee you’ll find yourself somewhere here, or at least your project manager portrait.

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    I Don’t See You or Hear You

    Open your eyes and ears This type of personality is a sure sign of burnout. You come in each day and avoid team contact. You would rather read status reports than actually talk to a team member or client. Your team fears you because the grimace on your face is a constant. Many wonder why you don’t look for another career because you obviously hate your job as the leader.

    You Should: Look at your career and the goals you set way back when. Are you where you want to be? If not, maybe you need to develop a new career plan.

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    Casper the Ghost

    Are you invisible Do you run away from conflict? Do you avoid returning emails, texts or tweets? Do your project teams complain they can never find you? If so, you are this friendly ghost who isn’t contributing anything and, actually, you should be thankful you still have a job. You need to drop the sheet and get back into the game because your team has no direction.

    You Should: Take an interpersonal skills seminar and brush up on your communication skills.

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    The Meanie Monster Boss

    You big mean boss If you yell from your office and everyone in the entire place can hear you, you’re a big, mean boss. No one likes or trusts you and it’s your way or the highway. You don’t require team input because your ideas are the only ideas, and so many of your team members quit—even after all you’ve done for them—how dare they!

    You Should: Look in the mirror pal. Were you always like this? No one likes a mean boss and if you don’t change, you’ll be standing in the unemployment line because you will be replaced. Learn how to deal with being a horrible boss and change—now!

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    I’ll Let You Guys Make the Decision

    All of you decide for me If you’re this type of leader, you never really developed your own style of leading. You constantly ask others for their advice, never have any guidance of your own and let your teams run around aimlessly seeking a leader. Don’t shy away from leadership—your team needs you!

    You Should: Study up on some project management leadership styles and find one that works for you. You can always apply more than one style and develop your own unique style, but if you stay wishy-washy, you will soon be forgotten.

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    Why, Thank You! It Was All My Idea!

    Bow like a horse Remember in high school when someone stole your idea and took the credit? If you’re doing this as the leader of the team and taking all the credit for successful projects without recognizing and rewarding your team, you’re a poor excuse for a leader. You really couldn’t have completed the entire project on your own, so why act like you did?

    You Should: Learn to recognize and reward your employees and engage them in feedback; include them in upper management and client meetings at project end.

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    Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out

    Basically you fire people so you are like the Donald PM experts call these types of leaders pacesetters because they want the pace fast with no waste and have no time for what they feel are useless team members—they fire them. Most of the time, this is due to poor employee engagement leaving your team unmotivated and unhappy.

    You Should: Learn that employee engagement isn’t just a buzzword these days. You need to step up to the plate if you want productivity. Not everyone is going to run at your pace so nurture the ones who need a little guidance.

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    Thanks, Thanks and Thanks Some More

    You are not the pope dude Beyond possessing some bad leadership styles and personalities, you can also be too nice, and this will result in a lack of confidence and respect from your teams. No project ever goes 100 percent the way it’s initially designed and needs some risk assessment. Basically, you are not strong enough to manage; and if you’re not careful, someone who can will step up and push you out of the spotlight.

    You Should: Learn more about how nice project managers often finish last, not first. Be a stronger leader and network and seek out some peer help before passing out kudos all day long.

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    If This Doesn’t Work, We Could Aways…

    Should we eat bananas today Make a decision already! If your Dorian Gray portrait reflects too many methodology implementations and disorganization and you are indecisive, you’re a mess! Project leaders need to master their game, not plan as they go.

    You Should: Learn how to plan a project effectively. Learn how the project management lifecycle works from beginning to end.

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    What’s Change Management Again?

    He is lost are you If you’re asking questions like this, you didn’t pay attention in class. You also rely heavily on others and your peers are sick of you asking questions you should already know the answers to—you’re supposed to be a leader!

    You Should: Consider some project management certifications or better yet, join the Project Management Institute - if you do you can get the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) for free and maybe read it this time.

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    Peek at the Portrait

    Don't be a Frankenstein Every project manager starts at the bottom with a fresh, blank canvas—including you! If you want to be the best leader you can be, you need to network from the start, be open to team feedback, use focus groups and mind maps to brainstorm to success. You should always be open to learning the new and understand why it’s okay to test the waters on new methodologies you’ve never tried before.

    Don’t wait until it’s too late to peek at your project management portrait. It may not be as scary as you think. In fact, it may show exactly what you thought it would. On the other hand, has that portrait changed so drastically you don’t even recognize yourself?

    So, how does your portrait look? Go ahead, take a peek and let us know. We won’t judge. We would like to hear from you, especially if your portrait is even scarier than some of these! Of course if your portrait hasn’t changed at all, we are really jealous, but we’d love to hear from you, too!


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