A project manager plays several roles during the lifecycle of a project. They need to wear different hats to ensure that each and every situation has the best possible response under the given circumstances.
Mr. Gary Hearkens in his brief case book entitled “Project Management”mentions four “four unofficial duties of a project manager” – babysitter, salesperson, teacher and friend. Let us discuss these briefly and also the two I would like to add – Police and Judge.
Babysitter – Certain team members would require close guidance and/or detailed instructions. This could be for several reasons – some of them being new to the team, under qualified for the role they are playing, lack of confidence or simply they like to seek attention.
Salesperson – The project manager has to be a salesperson often. Sometimes he could be selling to the management why he needs more resources urgently or to the customer why the things they demand are part of additional scope and would require change management. The situations are plenty demanding sales skills and this is an important skill the project manager must develop.
Teacher – The project manager is a teacher or mentor to the new team member who join the project or sometimes the organization. This is a hat the project manager must continuously have on and help the other team members improve their skills and learn from the project manager’s experience. This must be judiciously done though as some team members may view continuous advice negatively. But still growing a team yields positive results for the project, organization and also enhances the project’s manager reputation as someone great to work with – in turn contributing to project success.
Friend – This is the most tricky one. Having friendships and professional relationships with the same people is at times challenging. Still having an open and informal line of communication with your team helps the project manager bond more easily with the team. A team with a strong bonding has a higher chance of success.
Police – The project manager sometimes is required to constrain team members from activities that impact the project negatively – much against the wishes of these team members – but because it is in the better interest of the project.
Judge – Be it issues related to change management, quality or interpersonal disputes within team members, more likely than not, the project manager would be the first point of escalation for these. Depending on the situation, the project manager must know when to “judge” and when to not. e.g. In a matrix organization, it would be better to let the appropriate authority handle interpersonal issues if they are not directly related to the project.
Not all are required in all projects and not everyone can play all of these effectively. It also is a matter of personal skill and orientation as well as the team dynamics that exist in a project. Every project manager must evaluate for himself/herself what best works for them in a given situation and apply accordingly.