The target is painted on your head in bright crimson. Success depends on your ability to organize and lead. People from all over the organization come to you for information. You give informative presentations to Important People, who listen with rapt attention.
You are… ***Insert Trumpet Fanfare*** The Project Manager!
Even if you are just the project manager (no caps), you occupy a position of leadershipand, since you’re in the profession, it’s probable you like it that way. Being the leader gives you the opportunity to make a solid contribution, which contributes to your sense of self-worth and importance—not at all unhealthy. Having your work make you feel like a top dog in some sense is part of job satisfaction; however, if you becomeaddicted to that feeling, and can’t give up the steering wheel when you need to, you’re likely to veer into some project problems.
Despite your position as leader, there’s nothing more important than the end goal of the project (or perhaps of the current project phase). There are going to be times when the best thing you can do to move the work forward is to step out of the way and let someone else lead.
I worked a project with a very strong engineering lead several years ago, a guy with the respect of his techies (and me) and a real gift for dealing with people. In tech-heavy meetings, and in some not so technical, he took the reins. It happened very naturally, but I must admit I was uncomfortable with it at first. Wasn’t I supposed to be running the show?
I could have asserted my authority (such as any PM’s is) and run those meetings, but interrupting the flow would have been awkward and counterproductive, and the results wouldn’t have been nearly as good. Sometimes I was afraid the client saw me as a weak project manager, and that didn’t feel good, but because my first concern was making the project successful, I set those feelings aside and let the engineering lead do his stuff. In the end, the client wound up respecting (even loving!) us both, because the product turned out so well.
Sharing the leadership with my technical colleague didn’t mean I stopped managingthe project. There was still the budget to deal with, the schedule to manage, client issues to resolve (sure, they didn’t call him with scope-creeping requests!), all the fun stuff that’s the PM’s daily bread.
I learned that to manage a project, you don’t have to lead every single bit of it.Sometimes it’s important to get out of your own way—and crucial to get out of other people’s.