When we first started writing this series, I included this particular myth in the first myth post. But I dedicated more words to this particular myth than the rest of the post. This tells me that this myth is so important it deserves its own post. Let’s dive in and discuss Part 2 of our project management myths and focus on this one extremely important myth.– Susan Fennema, Fractional COO & Owner of Beyond the Chaos
Project Management Myth: “Anyone in the office or team can manage the project… I don’t need to hire a Project Manager”
Busted! We personally know this is a myth because Beyond the Chaos would not exist if this were true! But… why is this a myth?
People often disregard project management as a specific skill. When they believe that myth, we often hear them say something like:
- “So-and-so is already working on this project, so why don’t they manage it too?”
- “Adding another person to the project will slow it down.”
- “We don’t need to spend the money on a project manager.”
It’s true project managers don’t typically bring to the table a “hard skill” or technical skillset, like knowing how to code. The skills they bring are more intangible. But their end result is always tangible.
Let’s break down those intangible skills that a project manager brings and why you absolutely need a dedicated project manager for your project to succeed.
Project Management Isn’t Just One Skill. It’s Many.
Managing a project isn’t just one thing. It’s so many things. As their titles suggest, project managers are responsible for managing and leading an entire project through initiation, planning, execution, control, and completion. That requires many different skills.
According to the Project Management Institute, a project’s success rate improves by approximately 40% when project managers possess and nurture the ideal skillset – a powerful mix of technical, leadership, and business management expertise. This also means knowing how to communicate, be client-facing, and be able to mitigate risks.
Project management is NOT a tactical job like paperwork or running status meetings that another employee can float in and out of when things get busy. Project managers must have a totally different skill set than your developers, creative teams, and even stakeholders.
Say you’re short-staffed at the office. Would you want your developer to fill in to run payroll? Would you want your billing person to take on some extra software development work? Heck no. But for some reason, it’s easy to think just anyone can fill in for managing a project.
Are you seeing how this role can’t be done off the side of someone’s desk? It takes more than just a meeting to keep projects on track. With any of these skills missing from someone managing a project, the project could end up in flames.
Project Managers Represent Everyone
Who is advocating for every team member and the project’s goals? The project manager is. Project Managers are the diplomats who help reach compromises and define tradeoffs for finishing projects. They also free up the rest of your team to focus on what they’re hired to do instead of getting distracted by following up with their co-workers’ late tasks or getting bogged down in things that aren’t their responsibility.
If you had a developer managing their own work, there’s a risk they could be too in the weeds. They might not be thinking about the big picture or often aren’t realistic about their own hours. Instead, they’re focused on their own tasks and not the overall strategy. People who are individual contributors to a project cannot act as a neutral party or advocate for the project or the team. A project manager helps your team focus on what they do best and what matters the most – and helps everyone deliver their best work.
Project Managers Know How to Show Empathy
Project Managers are skilled in having conversations about big problems with clients, like, delivering bad news. They are skilled in negotiating with internal teams and communicating effectively. They are skilled in knowing what to say after a tough meeting to get everyone’s heads back on straight. Project managers can do this because they know how to show empathy. Empathy is the ability to interpret the thoughts and feelings of another individual. It’s essential to create understanding and build trust.
Empathetic communication can mean the difference between creating a long-lasting relationship and getting future work from a client. Let’s take a look at what it sounds like to be empathetic and unempathetic. Below are some of the ways we empathetically lead projects and teams.
- I completely understand your frustration.
- What’s the first step we can take to move forward?
- How do you feel that the meeting went?
- What would you like to change about the situation?
- I agree that things feel rough right now.
- Remember that I’m here to help you.
- That might not be what you think happened, but it is how [insert client name here] perceived it. So, we should address that perception.
- I hear you, and let’s work together to resolve this.
- What are things on your plate you can give to others?
Ask yourself if those responses sound familiar. Can you hear your creative team or developers running a project using those phrases? If you don’t have a project manager running your projects, you might be more familiar with the UNempathetic approach below:
- You aren’t thinking rationally about this.
- You dropped the ball.
- Don’t you want things to improve?
- You’re getting too emotional.
- I need you to calm down.
- You are causing them to act that way.
- You need to fire them right now.
- This was your own fault.
- I can’t work with them anymore.
- Can’t you just… (then followed by something very simplistic, yet impossible)
- Anything you call out someone in public or in front of a client, like, “Sorry client, but the developer really screwed that up. I’ll see if I can fix it for you.” This is a personal attack and is a huge nono.
Not only does empathy sound authentic and get results, but it’s also contagious, according to the Harvard Business Review. In fact, empathy is so important that the HBR created an empathy index showing which leading companies also have the highest empathy scores. In fact, empathetic individuals are not only more successful, but empathetic teams are as well. For more about all the good business benefits that come from empathy, check out this read as well.
Project Managers for Hire
If you’re struggling with any of the situations above – such as having non-project managers manage projects – let’s chat. Our team is available to step in and work as an extended (and virtual) member of your team. It’s really easy, and our packages are customized to your needs. As little as five hours a week can make a big difference.
Visit our guide to learn more about how you can achieve operational success for your small business.