PM: Ensuring Continuity of Leadership When Away

A key factor in maintaining momentum on the projects we manage is continuity of leadership. That said, project leaders need time away, just like everyone else. However, when we do take time away we must NEVER leave a void in leadership or project-related communications! In doing so, we could dramatically impact the project if things were to skip a beat, resulting in what could amount to a significant loss in momentum…

There is a MUCH better way!

First, let’s discuss our away message, by sharing a couple of poor examples:

  • I’m having a kidney transplant today and will be unable to respond to emails between 2 and 4pm, but you can always call my cell.
  • I’m away from the office on extended leave, backpacking until September 1.

To the above, I’d encourage everyone to please, FULLY take the time needed (and deserved) to be away. Our health and family are more important than work – MUCH more important! And, if we put in place what is outlined below, we are better able to leave work behind for a few to several hours or days if/when this becomes necessary.

When it is necessary to get away, we can ensure there are NO gaps in leadership or communications during our absence by:

  • Determining who is best suited to back us up. It could be another PM working on the overall program or project(s) we are leading or a key stakeholder who is deeply engaged in the project. This includes confirming they will be available during our absence and bringing them up-to-speed on any details that may warrant “particular” attention.
  • Informing the project team and stakeholders, in advance, of who is covering for us and how to reach them.
  • Updating our email auto-responder AND voice mail greetings (to our office and mobile phones) to set expectations and provide clear guidance.

A clear, concise and informative away message looks something like this:

I’m on vacation and unavailable from March 25 thru April 2. I will respond to your inquiry upon my return. In the meantime, if anything requires immediate attention please contact [insert your backup’s name, email and phone #(s) here].

Once we have that in place we can (and should) take a deep breath and focus on the more important matters in life 🙂

It is also helpful to encourage our teammates to do the same when they are going to be away. But, we cannot ask this of them unless and until we are willing to do so ourselves.

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