PM: A People-Oriented Profession – Intro

The Project Management Institute suggests, and I whole-heartedly agree, that Project Management is a people-oriented profession.

Folks I’ve worked with have heard me say, in a “not so” tongue in cheek fashion, “if it weren’t for the people, projects would be easy!”

Consider the following:

  • PM’s typically have no-one “officially” reporting to them
  • PM’s need to be able to engage with people at all levels of the organization
  • PM’s must coordinate the activities of numerous, disparate (geographically, culturally, vocationally, etc.) people towards the achievement of a desired outcome.
  • Each person referenced above is a unique individual with unique needs, work and communication habits.
  • Bottom-line: The PM can only succeed by getting things done with and through other people.

A relevant quote:

The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.

John D. Rockefeller

If we consider the above perspectives, then becoming highly effective at working with others will not only aid one in succeeding as a project manager, but will also help individuals excel in their career, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor!

So, how does someone become highly effective at working with people? First, and foremost, we must be the kind of person that people actually WANT to work with.

Many years ago I had an open PM position in my organization, when a peer of mine mentioned that a PM he had engaged had completed his project assignment and was now available for the next. I quickly jumped at the opportunity to consider a PM who was already within the company, being that he knew his way around our extremely fast-paced firm. He interviewed quite well, knowing the PM jargon, tools, etc. However, when I reached out to his colleagues I learned that he did complete the project on time and within budget, but he left a scorched earth behind him. That is, no-one on his team had the desire to EVER work with him again.

He didn’t make the cut to join my team…

This story may be a bit of an extreme, but true, example of the importance of working well with others. That said, we ALL need to consider how we might smooth out our rough edges and learn how to work with people, with finesse.

In subsequent posts I’ll share common people-oriented challenges that PMs will undoubtedly experience and approaches to address each.

In the meantime, the most important recommendation I make, to individuals I coach, is to read the book (or listen to the audio program) How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. If you’ve already done so and it has been more than a year, I recommend reading, or listening to it again and again and again.

Finally, if you are looking to improve PM competencies in yourself or within your organization, feel free to reach out to learn how I can help or to book time on my calendar!

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