At a meeting yesterday with one of our most valued clients, he told me about a couple of managers in his organisation who had been developing well in their careers. They were being fast-tracked for executive positions. All was going well.
Until they were given projects to manage.
The whole experience confused and somewhat demoralised them. They could not seem to switch from familiar and previously effective modes of working and mindsets, which until that point had served them well, to a project environment . To be sure, some of it was to do with part of their projects needing teams to deliver types of specialist work that they were not familiar with, but that was not the entire reason for their unravelling confidence and disorientation.
How could this be? Aren’t we all meant to have good project management skills in our kit-bag of competencies? After all, isn’t this the age of project-based organisations?
My mind went back to last summer when Marcus Buckingham of Gallup gave a highly stimulating session at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in South Barrington, Illnois. One of the points Buckingham made was that great organisations distinguish themselves among other things by developing people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. (See his book, Now, Discover Your Strengths for more on this.)
That made me think: Could there be certain types of people who have a natural proclivity, talent or gift towards managing projects that might be absent in otherwise good managers?
These days, there seems be an unspoken assumption that we can all be developed to be good at everything. I just don’t buy that. Individuals are unique. They are not resources. Everyone has some strength to bring to the business. One of our values in Pearce Mayfield is the Synergy of Teams, and one of the ways we try to live that value is to find the natural, complementary strengths in each of us, and to play to our strengths.
I’d be interested to know if there is any research into project management competencies that supports Buckingham’s thesis and my client’s experience.