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Project manager, know thyself! That is a definite requirement on both a professional and a personal level. Over the years, I have gotten to know myself quite well along with everything that is good, bad and ugly about working with me and for me. As an IT project manager, I live in the world of authority over my projects and responsibility for achieving their objectives and successful completion while having no legitimate power of position over the project team and the stakeholders. Ouch. Influence and leadership skills are essential in order to get things done and get them done well. Relying on my personal power base of referent and expert power is pretty much all the power available to me. Of course, that “personal power only” work environment makes achieving a successful project outcome all the sweeter.
Getting things done in project land requires that the project manager recognize the differences between effective managers and effective leaders. To me, managers manage things and leaders lead people. It’s kind of like the difference between doing a task as a manager or staff member versus setting the tone and leading others so they can get things done. Sure would be nice if everyone could excel with both skill sets, but that does not seem to happen as often as it should. Seems like management, leadership and technology form a triangle that we all need to navigate and exist within in order to get things done. The bases of power sit right in the middle of the triangle.Power needs to be used responsibly if a project manager wants their team members to get things done and their project stakeholders to recognize progress and have some skin in the game. Leadership skills and a judicious use of power are certainly an evolving skill set and they require tuning and updates over time.
One use of personal power that works for me is having everyone on the same page within a project team as well as involved in the decision-making activities. Sharing power often results in more power over time for the project manager and for the team. Another thing I have noticed about teams is that many times people can step up to lead in a situation, regardless of their team role or job level. To me, that ability is one key characteristic of a high-performing team. I guess I need to add a caveat to the team decision-making that says, “when appropriate.” Sometimes, I have found that my project teams would like to make decisions or weigh in on decisions that are out of their range of authority. Many times, the decisions are above my pay grade as well, so we analyze and recommend what could be done and then escalate the decision-making to the folks who are authorized to say yes or no or not now or maybe.
I have experienced a wide range of leadership styles and power usage over the years. Many examples are exactly what I would like to do, and other examples are poorly done or are not my style. Many years ago, I watched my manager pick favorites and let favoritism trump the performance and contributions of the other team leads and developers. This manager used legitimate power to reward these favorites repeatedly through promotions, bonuses, and other incentives. The “favored few” did a good job, but they were not the top performers or the knowledge experts in the group. Over time, this favoritism eroded the team’s perception of these individuals and damaged their reputation with their peers, even though the “favorites” did not court this favoritism or even want to be a favorite in the first place. Many talented technical staff members left the group as a direct result of these activities over time.
After I left my technical group with the “favored few”, my next manager was a good example of how things should be done. This manager created a level playing field for all her knowledge workers and allowed everyone to excel if they chose to step up. This manager was one of the best managers I ever worked for and is still a very good friend of mine 25 years later. This manager told me that the people and teams were like her flower garden. She was a serious gardener and took the health and well-being of her plants very seriously. She brought the same “care and feeding” to her teams, both collectively and to each member of the team. She was very good at discovering what each team member liked, disliked and excelled at so she could put them in a position to shine. She is the manager I think of who truly built and nourished her teams and was an excellent example to me early in my project management career.
The leader who exercises power with honor will work from the inside out, starting with himself and strength to proof creativity, intuition, humility, and emotional intelligence is the distinguishing factor. The leadership is about business analysis, financial literacy, planning, process improvement, systems thinking, and workflow management of an organization. Leadership is about change and change central to an effective leader as it represents the mindsets, language, skills, and behaviors of effective leadership as applicable in an organization ( Freifeld, & Desmidt, 2013).
Learning about leadership is mastery of the self from the heart, develop a baseline of self-awareness to understand how to improve the personal effect. Leadership vested with the power to influence the thoughts and actions of other individual and power in the hands of an individual could cause risk of equating of ability to get desirable results, overlook methods legitimate to accumulate power and threat to lose self-control in the desire for power. As point out earlier, the best instrument of leadership is self and require one to know about the person, which will serve as the central point of the discussion at this point ( Gragnon, 2012).
I believed that self-knowledge is practically impossible to achieve as an individual can realize that our mindset is full of corruption or individual is biased created about when it comes to the face in the mirror. I believed that one could achieve greater things by tuning into a few established principles and looking forward to feedback from others. The way I perceive or see myself depends on how I feel others view me or see me as realized that I could not see all about myself which leads to the perspective of the blind spot in Johari window Model principle ( Krischer, 2019).
My blind spot not seen to me, but others can see and talk about, so to say that the blind spot is the other side of me I do not see or know that others like friends, neighbor, loved ones, and mates see and can talk about in me references to character and behavior. Anyway, knowing myself in terms of strengths, and weaknesses determines who I am but based on other areas of a blind spot yet to discover of myself to dates. As seen in the pioneering identity of ego identity related as an enduring and continuous sense of who we are and allows an individual to merge various oneself into one cohesive whole as unexpected disaster strike there is a stable sense of self ( Gragnon, 2012).
As individual put it, I already know myself very well indicated that as a human being we are bound to changing, evolving, and adapting to new life circumstances, proved to me that an individual could not only know about self, but others know more than one identified person. What I am today depends on past experiences and with close interaction assure me that life is an ongoing process and believe that can improve the way to know oneself more. However, one can suggest to others, but it might be challenging to think about how I do that to myself and of the notion that I cannot help others until I can help myself first (Yuki, 2006).
The leaders engaged the power vested on them to get things done as to simply motivate individuals to perform their obligations and task as stated adequately. For example, the individual can be recognized based on the commitment to work and duties with the reward of incentives to promote more strength and engagement. The use of information to enhance strategies that help better outcomes as information yet to know of is already available in the organization to work on putting the leader to the forefront, and the subordinates believe and have faith to respect the order of quality control, making legal decisions with quality outcomes ( Zaleznik, 2004).
The leader pays special attention to the subordinates as strength to take in emotional signals and make them meaningful in a relationship enhance a higher power to the leadership role of an organization. The leader concern with ideas, suggestions, events, decision mean to subordinates can promote the production and the profit of the organization. The leader tries to convert win-lose to a win-win situation and able to reconcile issues among assistants to maintain balances of power as well as to ensure individuals are committed to working in a professional and social setting to enforce policies and regulations as legitimate power (Yuki, 2006).
The leader seeks out others with whom to work and collaborate, develop new approaches to long-standing issues and open new options to problems that give value to conflicts as acceptable solutions to compromises to shift the balance of power. The leader with in-depth knowledge can carry along the subordinates to perform excellently on the task as part of respect and trust, which can influence the decision-making effort during the consultation ( Zaleznik, 2004).
However, another leader might want to use their power to oppress and intimidate subordinates such as coercive power to enforce subordinate to follow direction, not of their will. The use of coercive power like threats, bullying, harassment, and indirect negative comments cannot motivate but kill the moral of an individual to continue work ( Freifeld, & Desmidt, 2013 ). Furthermore, in the other hand, the leader may use the power of rewards as incentive and promotion to encourage the performance of such subordinate’s individual as means of recognition such as employees of the week, mouth and year.
People are comfortable with different types and levels of power pretty much across the board. The biggest barrier to having power is ourselves, at least according to Pfeffer in his 2010 video. Pfeffer likens many career and power-related decisions that people make to herd animals wanting to be part of the group and be liked versus stepping out, being innovative and ultimately being different than their peers. Since your peers are also your competitors, why follow the group and slot yourself into the expected hierarchy?
The rule and advice that I liked best in Pfeffer’s (2010) video was that taking power over your own career trajectory and experiences requires a person to make a conscious effort to get out of their “comfort zone.” To me, this is the essence of being a successful entrepreneur in today’s world. I felt this way back in 200 when I decided to leave my corporate life and strike out as a project management consultant and trainer in a company of one person, me! That was a big step out of my comfort zone and a valuable lesson learned about taking a career risk and reaping the benefits of the choice.
I feel like I am implementing Pfeffer’s (2010) “get out of your comfort zone” advice in the academic realm right now with my decision to enroll in this doctorate program here at CTU. This degree program was not a requirement at this time, but it sure is outside my current consulting and training comfort zone. So here I am, jumping right in to walk the doctoral degree program path as a student versus a faculty member and see what I learn, who I meet, and what happens next.
Looking back, I have managed many shapes and sizes of IT project teams in my career, what fun! There is a 20-year-old Super Bowl commercial about herding cats that comes to mind when I think of some of those projects and departments of people. Funny how the more personal types of power and influence skills make all the difference in managing and leading knowledge workers, kind of like the commercial points out. If you have not seen this classic commercial, have a look. Every time I watch it, I have to smile as it is just right. Sometimes I feel like those cowboys wrangling the cats out on the open range. You can find the link to a video of the full commercial in my reference list for this post.
One thing I have learned along the way to right now is that effective leadership is all about influencing people. Choosing those who you influence is one of the great skills and great challenges of being a leader. In my world, influence skills can make or break project managers, no doubt about it. Influence skills are a type of informal leadership. In the absence of formal power, effective project managers must still find a way to work with the project team and the other project stakeholders meet the defined project requirements and achieve the project objectives. One aspect of doing this is to lead by example, ‘influencing’ the project team and stakeholders into working together and collaborating effectively. This requires that project managers adjust their style to the audience at hand and consistently follow through with their commitments. By systematically applying active encouragement and collaboration, a project manager with little authority and all the responsibility can successfully complete their project and get everyone to buy into and to contribute to this success.
Knowing myself well
I have never given the knowledge of myself much thought like twentieth Century Philosopher Rene~ Descartes, (1560-1690) thesis” I think therefore I am” but I can certainly vouch that I know I have the capabilities of being a leader. Knowing and Understanding myself is quite challenging but I think, reason, plan, set goals, motivate others and influence decisions and activities within my sphere of influence daily which means that my self-knowledge has evolved and now I think I know myself fairly well as a reasonable person.
Using Power to get things done
My situational evolutionary leadership developed as I assumed responsibility for Consulting Business comprising of myself as CEO, My late husband and two daughters. My Mother and three Sister managed the international procurement and logistics center overseas. The power to manage and supervise the home procurement, advertise for new business, logistics, shipping and inventory at the international centers rested with me. It was challenging because I had no formal training for my managerial post had to learn as I go. The assumption of a situational role made me realize that” I can because I was entrusted with the leadership position by customers.”
I managed employees’ performance, absenteeism, regulated their start and end time, assigned duties and managed turnover rate with merit periodic rewards and bonuses, delegated authority and instituted early teaching of “just in time” deliveries schedule. I understand how to make employees follow directives using my power of persuasion and merit reward to get them to work harder., managed hiring activities, service deliveries and transportation. I discern what activities I can and cannot participate in. I chatted my career path as a consultant which has led me to my doctoral level program by applying the knowledge and practice from my basic education.
How others use power
I managed OB and expectations to reduce conflict, increase interpersonal communications, maintain the structure of leadership, encourage the right attitude to collaborate as teammates as well as individuals to get our services to customers. I used my leadership power as influence to get things done as I interface with clients and customers. As a leader I inspire and motivate others to emulate ability to change processes, initiate conflict resolution, negotiation and encourage merit rewards chosen at random. I use my power/authority as the CEO to solicit businesses, network, interpret the rules, assign tasks, cultivate new relationships, supervise workload efficiently without resentment, disseminate information and liaison between my employees and clients.