There is a very well-worn phrase that tells how “all good managers delegate“. This is indeed true, but it doesn’t take the story far enough. In addition to delegation, you have to trust the person too. And that means, tell them what you want them to do, when you want it done by and then leaving them alone. If it isn’t going to happen, trust them to tell you as soon as they know.
The simple fact is, if you can’t trust them, if you need to hand-hold all the way then they are maybe a good candidate for a role re-alignment. After all, there isn’t any point having anyone in a professional environment that you can’t leave alone to complete a task.
Trust is also a key tool in people development. Generally inexperienced people are never too sure how good they are or what they are capable of. Your job as a manager is to understand their limit and to push them to it or just beyond. Trusting them them to get there.
Again, trust is not something that a fearful arse can do. Which is why people tend to hate working for them.
They call themselves Project Managers but all they really do is collect timesheets and other such frippery. You need to spot these people quickly and ignore everything they say with regard to delivery as the very fact that they call themselves Project Manager signifies that they are an arse and therefore will not obey the law of silence.
Once you have spotted them, you can have fun with them because they will be constantly scared so ask them tough questions, make them make on the spot decisions and generally wind them up. Obviously, ignoring any responses you may get.
The most infrequently used and most powerful of all managers weapons. Try it, it can be a real treat. The next time your customer says “This isn’t good enough, why is it going to be late?” just reply with a simple “It has taken longer than we thought it would.”
The thing is, there is very rarely an good substitute for the truth. If you genuinely believe that the truth would be counter-productive then the only viable alternative is silence.
Also, being absolutely honest with the people working for you is imperative. Remember, as a manager, there is generally very little you can do to directly influence the outcome of things. So having a team of people who trust and believe in you is the key. You can get this by showing them that you are an honest and trustworthy individual.
Arses avoid the truth through fear as they believe that somehow the truth is likely to get them into more trouble. The truth is at the core of all damage limitation. Some quick, sharp, upfront honesty can go a long way to sorting out the most complex of issues.
At comedian-school (if there is such a thing), they teach you that timing is everything.
The same is true in managing a project, and how proficient you are at getting the timing right will often be the key to glorious success or cringing failure.
Sometimes you will need to act immediately, usually to quickly defuse the potential onset of panic, a state often induced by people suffering from ‘little knowledge’ syndrome.
Other times you should bide your time and wait for things to pan out, often issues will resolve themselves or at least clarify themselves to the point that you can quickly determine a solution.
To some, the understanding of when and how to act will come naturally. Others will be able to hone this skill with experience. Managers who don’t fit into either of these groups will be those whose projects you will eventually be asked to rescue.
Perhaps not always closely associated with Project Management, Tennis should never be far from your mind. It works like this. When a customer is waiting for something from you the ball is on your side of the net.
This is bad but not disastrous. You don’t necessarily have to give them what they want to get the ball back over the net. By simply seeking clarification or asking them a question you can easily get the ball back on the other side of the net. This is good. The heat is now off and you can concentrate on the bigger issues. Practice batting the ball back as often as you can and you will quickly learn how this strategy gives you a more relaxed transition towards the grave.
If tennis isn’t your thing, think of the little clocks they use in chess. You’re job is to keep the customer’s clock ticking. Take great glee when you slam the switch on your little clock down.