My mom is someone you should know if you don’t already. She would be the ultimate PMP and leadership advisor, scrum coach, project management expert, etc., known from Botswana to here. And she’s not even a project manager.
My two brothers and I were always on time to school. We were always well dressed and had a packed lunch with a note. We were always well-dressed, and we had plenty of time to do our homework.
Mothers and fathers can be considered their own version of project managers in many ways. Ben Ferris wrote that “anyone with children has an advantage in a few aspects of the job of project manager.” He is also right. Project managers can learn a lot from parenting books.
Here are four examples.
1. Establish expectations.
Eric Spiegel explains how counting to three helps him create a sense of discipline while working with his daughter in another post entitled “Parenting Skills Take On Project Management”. This can be translated into setting boundaries and expectations for team members, he argues.
Although team members may not be children, establishing clear expectations can help project management and create a cohesive project team. This includes defining clear objectives, setting clear milestones and stating which task is more important.
Also, if it is your job to review the successes and weaknesses of your team members, make sure you detail what will be included in the performance review. This will ensure that there are no surprises.
2. Be the adult.
My mother had surgery to her right eyebrow, and she can’t lift it. As a baby, I mimicked my mother and raised only my left eyebrow. I was capable of lifting both. This is a good example of mirror neurons at work.
Children will pick up everything from facial expressions and behaviors. Team members will look to their project managers to set the tone.
Project managers must be exemplary in servant leadership and take pride as role models. You set the standard for behavior in your office, just as you do at home.
3. Do not be afraid to be the bad guy.
Children need to do chores. They must do their homework, brush teeth, make their beds, learn how to use the bathroom, and do their homework.
These tasks are not fun and only one or two people can enforce them: parents.
There are tasks that everyone wants to do in every project. There are deadlines that are missed, miscommunication, or worse, project managers need to act like disciplinarians.
Nobody likes to be the “professional nail” in the corporate world. This is often the job of a project manager. It’s your job ensure that your team and project are on track. Project managers must not shy away from hurting a coworker’s feelings if they’re underperforming–instead, they must be motivated to address and fix the problem. (Perhaps this is why some personality traits are better suited to project management than others.
4. Organization is key to success.
Meetings with stakeholders
It takes a lot of planning and deadlining to manage all these events. It requires a high level of risk management. Just as parents must be able to anticipate a runny nose or cancelation of a babysitter, project managers must deal with “bugs” and changing priorities.
Project managers need to use project management software like ProWorkflow or Wrike. Parents can manage with a full calendar and a purse.
There are clearly significant differences between managing a team and working with children. If your two-year old is having trouble getting to the toilet on schedule, you can’t let them go. You can’t put on a movie to calm your team if they aren’t.