The Leader of the Band

July 10, 2013 by Rose Cook

It occurred to me the other day that being a Project Manager is a lot like being the conductor of a band. You are the leader, you’re the one everyone looks at to set the tempo and direct the process. You control whether you need a little more here or a little less there, whether to pick up the pace or to step it back. Much like the conductor’s job on the podium is to direct the band and not to play all the instruments, as a PM you are in a similar role minus the baton in your hand. Your team is looking to you to set the tempo, direct the process and delegate the responsibilities. So why do you find yourself playing all the parts as well?

Recently, one of our clients told me a story about how one of his PMs was frustrated with a team member not doing the tasks she was responsible for. This PM ended up DOING the task himself. You can look at this and think how hard-working this PM is and how great it is that he’s jumping in to help, but in reality this ends up being more detrimental than beneficial.  First of all, the team leader or project manager’s role is to coordinate and “orchestrate” all the activities, not DO them all. By doing someone else’s assigned task, it can also be very demotivating to that individual. Our job as managers is to call out the issues and roadblocks, then elevate to appropriate management if needed. We can best be of help by understanding the issues and finding a way to resolve them. A conductor who needs a little more out of the trumpet section waves his baton and gets the trumpets to respond appropriately, he doesn’t grab a trumpet and start playing. Nor should a Project Manager!

Let’s make the assumption that as the PM you’ve chosen your team carefully. Now imagine having all of this talent and not utilizing it to its full potential. Bypassing the team to take on tasks that you have perfectly good people in place to handle not only makes them feel inadequate, unappreciated and dissatisfied, it’s a complete and total waste of time that you could be putting to better use doing YOUR job, not theirs. Learning to let go can allow your team to shine. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when someone knows you have confidence in their abilities and you trust them to make good decisions.

Sure, letting go is hard! But consider this, you will likely never be an effective leader or manager if you don’t learn to delegate tasks to the people you have in place to handle them. What aren’t you effectively managing because you’re spending time in the wrong place? When Lynn and I began FlexPro, we truly did everything. From payroll to accounts payable, HR to web management – we were a team of only two. While that was all well and good initially, we quickly realized that we were spending so much time on those other necessary tasks that we couldn’t always devote the time necessary to growing the business. It was time to grow our team and delegate the responsibilities that were taking our focus from our main goals. Now our administrative team includes an HR Manager, a Talent Acquisition Manager and a Website Manager to name a few, all of whom we entrust to handle their respective areas of expertise thus enabling us to handle ours.

So the moral of my story is to put down the trumpet, pick up the baton and be a conductor. You and your team will make beautiful music together!

-Rose Cook, FlexPro CEO

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