In Part 1 of this two part series we began to look a few basic scenarios where leadership is commonly abused on project engagements. But how do we respond to these and other abusive situations? If left unchecked, abusive leadership can wreak havoc on any project. One key to any project’s success is the maintenance of a cohesive project team – working in like-minded fashion toward the common good of the project and in the best interests of the project customer. When leadership is abused or disregarded for what someone else deems to be more or most important, the project can easily veer off track, the team can breakdown or suffer, and the customer may become confused and concerned as they watch tasks and progress suffer on the delivery side.
How to Avoid Leadership Abuse
First…spot it early. They key to avoiding detrimental abuse of leadership is to spot it early. The difficult thing is to spot it. And then feel confident acting upon it. If you are a peripheral colleague working on another project, unless the leadership abuse is extremely apparent, it may be hard to convince yourself to take action and intervene. After all, what if you’re wrong? And if it’s happening on your own project, it still might be hard to recognize if other team members aren’t speaking up or if you happen to be overloaded with tasks. When we are stressed or extremely busy it’s easy to miss those things we should be reporting.
Let’s consider the scenarios from Part 1 and discuss potential actions or responses….
Team Members Avoiding What’s Assigned
This may seem obvious, but then again many things are in PM but we’re too busy sometimes to go the logical route or make the good decisions relating to the things we expect to not have to deal with…like leadership abuse. When rogue team members are avoiding what’s assigned and “doing their own thing” clearly they are either abusing your leadership by not following it or inserting their own by doing what they think is more important. This behavior can’t be tolerated. Meet one on one with the resource to discuss. What are their reasons? Do they lack understanding of the goals of the project and the need for team cohesiveness in order to realize those goals? Do they understand that the leadership comes from the project manager? What you have to consider as the PM is this – is it in the best interest of the project to replace them? If it is, then do it swiftly so as to mitigate further damage to the project and team.
PM Avoiding Regular Practices
Is your project manager avoiding your organization’s established methodology for managing projects? If you believe that to be the case, and there is a PMO infrastructure in place, then I suggest you go to the PMO director and not to the PM. It may just be a need to clarify processes and that should come from the director. If there is a need for discipline or removal of the PM from the project, that action also must obviously come from the PMO director.
If anyone on the team – from the PM on down – notices that team cohesiveness is eroding because processes aren’t being followed or communication is lacking or any of a number of other potential causes or issues, then the best thing to do is gather the team together to discuss. An internal team meeting can sometimes draw everyone back into focus on project goals. If that doesn’t work, then the PMO director may need to be brought in to discuss and restructure the team. But usually the team can get back on track by having one or more sessions together to plan and discuss the goals of the project.
What leadership abuses have you witnessed or experienced? What actions were taken? The key again with any of these situations is to recognize as early as possible and take some action swiftly…otherwise the issue will only worsen and can definitely adversely affect the project – sometimes to the point of no return.