Imperfect perfectionThe perfect project and program manager has a personality. However, there is no perfect personality.
When I interviewed over thirty seasoned project and program managers during research for Beyond the Certification, it was clear that each successful project manager has a distinct personality. Each personality has flaws. None are perfect, yet they are successful with different personality profiles. What is the common theme of the professional who leads projects aka. "The perfect project leader"?
Here is the common theme. Every successful project leader has a personality. They are comfortable with their personality. The people that work with them and for them on their projects know the personality of the project leader and work with it.
Since I wrote Beyond the Certification, I observed that this still holds true on other projects that I have analyzed.
For example, one program manager who is very successful, tends to talk. A lot. Ask him a question that requires a "yes" or "no" answer, and he will talk for 15 minutes. He knows this and tries to help himself, but you can never have a "quick" conversation with him.
Another program manager is never in a hurry. She always has time to talk with everyone in the hallway, and in the cafeteria. She is the most down-to-earth person you will meet, despite the fact that she oversees hundreds of millions of dollars. She interacts with the CIO and project management office assistants with the same level of interest and honesty.
Another program manager is hyperactive, and OCD and moves at lightning speed from task to task. He is an overachiever in all that he takes on. Also very successful as a program manager.
If you were to emulate all of these personality types and try to implement "Project Management Best Practices" to develop your own project management career, then you would fail. Miserably.
The key to becoming the perfect project professional is to develop your own professional personality. You can't be the best that you can be by trying to be someone else.
The strange thing is that you are usually not aware of who you are. Project management training focuses on "Do this, then you will get that result." If this was always true, then we would have 100% success on projects, because so many people have been trained to PERT, GANTT and network diagrams that there isn't a schedule which hasn't been fast-tracked ad-nauseaum. The key to project success is not the schedule. It is the personality of the project leader.
However, I observe that the successful project and program managers often do what they do, naturally. They don't even realize they do it. One example of "Do as I do, not as I say" is a project leader who works from 7 AM to 11 PM, every day. Co-Workers speculate that he is a machine in human form. He always has time to talk with people and make them feel important by thanking them for their contributions. People respect this and work hard in reciprocation. Yet, he doesn't identify this amount of effort as the key to his success. He attributes his success to having a "natural" gift to organize things and people. Although the hard skill of "organization" is valuable, the true reason for his success is his professional personality and behaviour. He sets the example, is very knowledgeable and proactive about the program he is leading, and is himself - he genuinely appreciates his co-workers and project team members.
People sense when you are yourself. They respect you and are willing to think ahead and go an extra mile for you when they sense that you are genuine and honest. This is the ultimate "soft skill" of project management. Genuine person-to-person connections. It can't be taught in a sterile classroom. You can uncover and refine your personality to become the Perfect Project Professional through working with a trusted adviser to practice your craft, reflect on outcomes of your actions, and observe what works and what doesn't for other people.
At the end of the day, and end of the project - it is your imperfect personality that can make your project succeed, and your life better for having passed this way. What are you doing today to identify and develop your PERSONality?