When I switched from a team member (i.e. “developer”) to a team leader (i.e. “TPM”), I really had to think about what value I bring and how I can excel at this role. I no longer needed to get in the weeds of tracking down a race condition caused by a multithreaded solution or how to properly validate a form in ASP.net. I took a walk to clear my head on a sunny, summer day. I remember the cool breeze.
Listening to the ambient sounds of nature, I thought about why I was here. I thought, “I want to leave work each day feeling like I brought needed value, did the honorable thing and helped my team succeed.” This has made my life much more fulfilling approaching work with this mindset. The big challenge, the dumb question, the personal problem, the tedious task…I would respect it all and give each my full attention.
But that’s a lot of stuff. It’s not really well defined either. What do I need to do to make sure I am the team leader my team needs me to be? Back at my desk, I broke this down into four simplified, overarching daily goals:
1. Make the Team Happy
If you want your life to mean something and contain as much happiness as possible, is it so hard to believe that each and every one of your team members also want the same thing? Do not underestimate the value of a happy team. A happy team wants to work with you especially if they see you fight for their happiness. It can be as simple as minimizing external distractions or being a soundboard for their various frustrations. Or simply allowing yourself to be the butt of a joke. People have bad days all the time, be able to respect that and motivate your team forward without adding to what’s already got them down.
And bring donuts from time to time whether you have a reason to celebrate or not. Never lose the pulse of your team!
2. Ensure Stakeholders are Satisfied
My first thought was to say “Satisfy the Client”, but that comes off cold. That sounds like an artifact of my old development days. I rather like the broad stroke approach of “Stakeholder” as defined by the PMBOK. Thinking this way makes me care just a little bit more about my project. Consider some of the following groups: your main client contact, other clients within other business units associated to your project, the people who use your software, your technical leadership team and so on. Anyone who cares about your project such that its success has a direct impact on how they perceive you is your stakeholder. Might want to read that one again!
Also, if you are keeping them satisfied that typically generates more opportunities for you. You work hard each day (…right?), receiving a hint of their satisfaction gives you a much-deserved (…right?!) sense of accomplishment.
3. Create a Quality Product
Quality may be the underlined word in this objective, but don’t skip over the “Create” portion. What is more validating as a human being than being able to create something? I could spend a lot of time discussing “quality”, but it basically boils down to everything. Everything about your product matters, from the color and placement of the cancel button to increasing sales to optimizing algorithms that speed up the application. Everything. And just because your hands aren’t in the clay as a developer or designer, you are still very much a part of the product’s creation, guiding the vision through implementation to deliver what a business both wants and needs.
Maintenance is a part of the product too. I said “everything”, right? If anything, maintenance is imperative to sustaining/improving a product’s quality.
4. Deliver On Time and On Budget
The above three goals are like the golden rules of being a good project manager. But, quick sidebar, what happens when two elderly women in opposite directions fall at the same time? You can’t help them simultaneously. Number 4 brings us to reality. We only have so much time and so much budget to work with. If you can accomplish the above three goals and deliver your product by the deadline without going over your budget…I’d call you a successful project manager.
So you will have to make some hard choices and figure out how to maintain the above three goals under increasing limitations and pressure. I find prompt honesty and transparency are the keys here.
Also, don’t find yourself simply laughing at the two elderly women who have fallen and can’t get up. That’s just ineffective…and mean.
On my morning commute each day, I tell myself: “Happy Team, Satisfied Stakeholders, Quality Product and On Time/On Budget.” It’s a simple thing to remember and guides my energy in a way that influences my projects positively. Throughout the day, I pause and ask if what I’m doing is actively pursuing these goals. Challenges will occur and these metrics of success can often conflict with each other, but as long as I don’t lose sight of the project holistically, keeping these goals in mind, I can shape the project as a success and in turn be successful myself.
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