How Do You Feel?
Now that the project is completed, do you feel a sense of relief? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment? Do you feel that you have achieved your project goals? Do you feel that, as the project manager, you have supported your team and fulfilled the stakeholders' expectations?
All the evaluations won't tell you how you feel about the project. People have worked on very successful projects and come away feeling empty. Sure, they made money, but they felt they did not learn or grow in any way. Some projects succeed despite unpleasant working conditions or unscrupulous methods that take a toll on team members. Other individuals will feel a strong sense of learning and growing from a project that went nowhere. Filmmakers will often recount early flops that taught them about how to do it right in the future. You might even recount a personal project that went no place, but from which you made a personal discovery, like a hidden talent or a new friend.
After the project phase is completed, sit down and assess what you personally got from the experience. Ask yourself:
Did I learn from any or all aspects of the project?
Did I grow?
How will I continue my affiliation with the product, service, system, or function that resulted from the project?
At the end of the official project phase, you can do a personal overview of your project management skills. Be honest. These are some of the questions you may ask in your self-evaluation of the project and your role in it:
Did I deal well with other team members?
How well did I communicate my ideas?
Did I keep management, stakeholders, and any other key parties informed of the project's progress?
Was I able to maintain the schedule I planned?
Was I flexible enough to make alterations in plans when needed?
Did I deal with conflict situations well?
Did I catch risks in time?
Did I take any unnecessary risks?
Did I monitor properly so that I felt I had a firm grasp of where the project was at any given time?
Did I reach the planned objectives of the project? If not, why not?
If not, could I have prevented the project from failing or was it out of my control?
Did I have proper contingency plans?
Did I make the right call to use — or not to use — contingency plans?
Did I learn new skills regarding project management? Specifically?
Would I do it again? What would I change and what would I keep the same?
Take a few moments to assess what type of leadership qualities you displayed. While working in a leadership capacity, it is often hard to step back and take a look at exactly how you are doing. Assess your leadership skills by asking yourself these questions:
Do I usually take time to go back and review information before making decisions, or do I just make the decision and move forward?
If a team member asks me a question and I don't know the answer, do I seek outside help in finding the answer or try to research and solve it myself?
Do I allow for a learning curve, or learning while doing (trial and error), as I go?
Do team members consider my approach methodical or direct?
Do I include gut feeling and intuition in making decisions, or rely strictly on data and specific information?
Am I closer to believing that conflict situations can sometimes work themselves out, or am I closer to the idea that immediate intervention is necessary?
Am I flexible in my methods, or do I try hard to keep the same methods in place as much as possible?
Obviously, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. The situation, environment, and time frame will often dictate which answers are more suitable for a particular project.
You can make a positive argument for either approach, and certain leaders will vary from one method to another depending on the team and the project. The ability to adapt is one characteristic of an effective project manager.
The first choice generally indicates a less aggressive approach, such as stepping back to reevaluate or letting the conflict work itself out. In nonpressure projects, such as those over long periods of time or those for which the outcomes are not highly consequential, you may use intuitive feelings, review rather than move forward, and so on. In projects where time is critical, you may not have the luxury to visit and revisit an issue; it may be necessary to act quickly and rely on data alone.
Along with the situational understanding of these questions, there is the style of leadership you display and how that affects your team. A high-energy team in a hard-working, fast-paced environment may expect someone who is more direct, stays with proven methods, and uses facts and figures for decision making. A smaller organization, a casual setting, or an artistic or creative project, however, may need a leader to be particularly flexible and adaptable to new ideas. The team may look to you as someone who will follow a gut feeling now and then, and not always go by the book.
While you cannot completely play the chameleon role and change your leadership style for each project, you can consider the following:
What type of leader will get the best response and results from this particular team of individuals?
What does this particular project call for in terms of flexibility or rigidity?
Before I take on this project, can I be the right leader for these people and this job?
There's nothing wrong with determining that a particular project needs a specific type of leader, and you are simply not the person for the job. Not every leader fits every role. Perhaps if more leaders evaluated the situation carefully and truthfully, they would know when they were not the right fit.