Friday, September 09, 2005

Don't Let Your Strengths Become a Weakness


Good morning Andrew. I just got done reading a posting on ravi mohen's blog about his ideas for a criteria that can be used in judging project managers. One of the points that he makes is that each of the really good project managers he has known have had great skills in other areas besides project management. He gives examples of great athletes, musicians and writers that are also effective project managers. It made me think that if I am a good PM, what might be something else that I am good at that could translate into being a good project manager? Well, the first thing that came to my mind is that I have been (and still are) a successful teacher and coach.

Let me give you a little more background about my teaching and coaching. Last weekend your mom and I moved some furniture around. In moving the hope chest down into the guest room I came across an old trophy I have been holding on to. It is the team trophy for winning a high school midwest regional basketball tournament that qualified our team for a national tournament. I was the coach for the team. This trophy is very special to me because it reminds me of a great bunch of kids that I had the chance to work with. But this is not the trophy that I am most proud of. In that same tounament the team also won the sportsmanship award. We were winners and we were disciplined.

So, going back to the theme of this posting, what could be the weakness in my strength of being a good teacher and coach? If I am hired to be a teacher and coach there really isn't an issue with it. But as a PM there could be. Here's how: being a teacher, I believe that I can teach anybody anything (given enough time) and being a coach, I believe that I can motivate anyone to do great things. (I can't seem to motivate you to clean your room, though.) But, you might ask, isn't it my job as a PM to build a team, and to teach and motivate? Yes, it is part of my job but it is not The Goal. My goal as a teacher is to build character and instill wisdom and knowledge. My goal as a PM is to deliver projects.

My abilities as a teach and coach are effective tools in my PM toolbox but they can also get in the way of delivering projects. The problem is that I sometimes continue to try to teach or motivate an under performing team member longer than I should. This can become detrimental to the morale of the team and detrimental to the delivery of the project. In the past I have had to let developers go and intuitively I know that I have done what was best for the team and the project. But each time I am left with a sense of personal failure.

The point that I am trying to make here is that if I continue to play to my strengths of teaching and coaching it can become a weakness as a PM. I constantly need to remind myself to stay focused on the goal of delivering business value by delivering working software into production.

One last point I want to make for you, Andrew: In this posting I am talking about strengths of abilities, not strength of character. Strength of character will never be a weakness in anything that is worth doing well.

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