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Turn on the Power
How to get People to Perform

Powerless Project Mangers

The number one complaint I hear from project managers across the country goes something like this, ďI am accountable for getting the work done but I donít have any authority over the people doing it.  I feel powerless.Ē  If you feel powerless you are powerless.  Authority is given.  Power is taken.  To get the job done you have to take power, with or without formal authority.  Three sources of power for project managers immediately come to mind, and none of them require authority. The first is visibility, the second is relationship, and the third is respect.

Visibility If you turn on the light in a dark room infested with cockroaches, the critters run and hide.  They donít like light.  The same goes for project workers.  Powerful project managers shine light on what is and what is not getting done.  People quickly do what they can to avoid the pain of looking bad.  Your most powerful tool for shining the light is the project plan with peopleís names on tasks that must be done on certain dates.  Simply report on the plan and people will do what they need to do to get out of the spotlight.  What get measured automatically improves.  When things go well, make sure you shine the spotlight on the whole team and give them the credit for a job well done.
Relationship All things being equal, we work hardest for the people we know and like.  Build relationships during the good times so you can call in favors when things get tough.  If you fail to build relationships, you miss out on one of the most important sources of power a project manager can have.  These relationships must go far beyond the immediate team.  You need to know all the people who can help you, and they need to know and care about you.  Relationship building is an investment with a long term payoff that goes beyond anything you can imagine.  In addition, there is immediate payoff; your job becomes more fun as you get to know the people around you.
Respect

If you donít do your work well, donít expect others to, either.  You earn respect when you demonstrate that you are competent and hard working.  You lose respect when you come across as stupid and lazy, and that is exactly how you look when you neglect to prepare properly for a meeting or fail to keep your project plan up to date.  Authority is given, power is taken, and respect is earned.  Respect keeps your power alive.

In the Tough Teams workshop, Creating High Performance Project Teams, we take a close look at expanding your power by focusing on things that matter. Your sources of power include the three items mentioned here, and a whole lot more.

 Copyright © 2007, Steve Wille

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