5 Ways Project Managers Can Become Great Change Leaders

Are you considering a career in project management or you’re a project manager who wants to enhance your project management skills? Besides your project management skills, would love to become a great change leader?

Project managers are change agents

Change is inevitable in any organization and every time a project comes up and it’s executed, something changes within the organization or its people. You may not realize it but any input in terms of finances, technical and human resources triggers change. Normally, project managers are expected to execute projects on time and within the available budget. That’s why they are highly responsible for the success or failure of the project.

For that matter it isn’t a surprise to find project managers who tend to focus on the financial, technical, and mechanical aspects of the project to produce more revenue and profits, forgetting the people involved in implementing a change. In case unaware, project managers are change agents; they make project goals their own and use their skills to inspire a sense of shared purpose.

They are also supposed to plan and organize people to achieve a common goal and that calls for leadership skills. They must incorporate the structural and psychological aspects in the change management process. All-round, they must guide the people involved to achieve the ultimate goal. Since not all project managers are the same, we would like to look at several aspects that can help project managers become great change leaders.


1. Be a Great Visionary

Visionaries are transformative and in other words, they desire and push for change. They love achieving milestones and are more concerned about effectiveness. Daniel Goleman, a psychologist in his book “Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence,” emphasized the importance of adopting different leadership styles.

Besides the major leadership theories you may know, Daniel’s different leadership styles include visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding. He stresses that the most effective leaders embrace all styles of leadership and adopt the most appropriate depending on organizational, situational, or human cues.

Being a great visionary highly requires you to understand the different aspects involved in the project management process with a major focus on “people”. You must share the vision with others “people” and you must ensure to help them understand it. A clear understanding of what must be done and the duration can help to promote effectiveness.

Communicate the targets and objectives in a cordial manner, respect and value each player since it takes teamwork to get things done. Possessing a visionary mindset can help project managers become more effective by not only focusing on budgets but also on the people involved. 


2. Push for a Collaborative Environment

Collaborative efforts are crucial to any project’s success. Have you heard phrases like “I am working on this project” and “I and my team are working on this project”? The words in these phrases draw a line between individual and collaborative efforts. If a project manager is all about “my project” it is a sure demotivator to the teams involved.

However, if a project manager says that I and my team, this shows unity and indicates that everyone’s efforts matter and they can make a difference. Help people see that they are part of the change by introducing collaborative tasks and recognizing efforts. A report published by McKinsey shows that 70% of change programs fail because of employee resistance and a lack of management support.

Change programs succeed when employees feel valued or are an integral part of the organization. That means that a project manager must put people at the center in order to attain the goals, more so to become a great change leader. You can consider the following;

Cordial Communicate: People hate being told what to do, but as a project manager, there is no way you can restrain from telling employees what they must do. However, the communication style and tone matter. If you’re giving guidelines or introducing new rules, find a friendly, yet an authentic way of introducing them.

Also, show that you respect and value them. Great change leaders are those who recognize the value of every employee and respect everyone in a team. Also, recognize and commend their efforts.

Be a Motivator: Motivation is a vital skill of every change leader. Positive changes only happen when people are told why they should embrace change and are motivated or encouraged to change. Try to understand the people within your team and motivate them to keep them focused.


3. Lead by Example

It’s quite easy to say and demand others to do, but difficult for some leaders to walk the talk. A project’s success is highly influenced by people and their actions. Meeting deadlines, putting in more effort, or working extra hours to get things done can hardly happen unless the project manager is exemplary.

You must generally inspire people to do what they must do. First and foremost, you must understand that guidelines are also applicable to you. You may have to leave last in some cases to display commitment and resilience. Maintain a professional attitude and code of conduct. Centralize communication, but remember that to some extent, body language is another powerful form of communication to rely on. Better leadership means better projects and this means a project manager must display a formidable character. 


4. Foster Emotional Intelligence

The skill of emotional intelligence is gaining more popularity in the leadership sphere. Besides technical skills, quality leadership carries the trait of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence or EQ is a major attribute of any leader as it defines the ability to understand, manage and control emotions.

Daniel Goleman highlights the importance of emotional intelligence stressing why it even matters more than IQ. The report also shows that the skill accounts for 90% of what sets high performers apart from peers. The skill of emotional intelligence helps leaders and managers collaborate with others, coach teams, manage stress, and make quality decisions.

Project managers with the skill of emotional intelligence know how to handle and work with people. They tend to be empathetic and willing to understand other people’s situations. Empathy is one of the best traits a leader can ever possess. It isn’t a weakness, but a trait that cultivates great interpersonal skills.  


5. Be Accountable

Project managers are in every way accountable for every action and decision made during the implementation of a project. They must justify their managerial decisions and the inefficiencies of their teams to the top management. Although that’s obvious, every team member involved must be accountable for their actions. The project’s success chances increase when team members are aware of their roles and responsibilities and held accountable for their inefficiencies.

Accountability is more fruitful when expectations and the interconnectedness of tasks are clear. Hold meetings and ensure that targets and goals are clearly understood by the team. Where necessary, highlight and confront the bad performance of those responsible to change. You may also have to address the concerns of remote workers in case they are part of your teams.

As the corporate world evolves, there is a need to upgrade skills and expand your knowledge as project managers. Some organizations are adopting a hybrid work culture and seeking professional training for better project management is essential. It will help you manage in-house and remote employees more effectively, and it will enhance your skills as a formidable change leader.

Guest Article from Jessica, The Speaking Polymath

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