Hit a Project Management Home Run: Bat from both sides of the Leadership/Management Plate

BY Rich Farrell | March 25, 2019

Baseball season is getting oh so close to a ballpark near me and I love me some Major League Baseball. A key reason why I love baseball is great batters like Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, and Tim Raines. They were all fantastic switch hitters that could adapt on the fly to different pitchers. My baseball coach always said right-handed batters hit better against left-handed pitchers and vice versa. ERP project management has the same dynamic with Leadership and Management. The best program managers are switch hitters, alternating seamlessly between leaders and managers.

Viyeet Nayar, quoted in the Harvard Business Review, has an excellent definition of both Management and Leadership. He states, “Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual's ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.” While the term “ProjectManager” implies Management is the key role of a PM, LTA believes that a successful ERP Project Manager must be a manager and a leader, switching roles and applying the proper PM activities as required throughout the project.

Like switch-hitting, knowing when to step into a manager role or switch hitting to be a leader can be challenging. However, ERP implementations and Transformation Projects are complicated, difficult, and require enlightened solutions to deliver success. Sometimes the PM needs to manage the project, keep in budget, scope, and schedule. Often in key milestones of the project, the PM needs to be a leader: providing a vision of success and encouraging the project team to reach for that keg of victory. It is not clear cut or written in a project plan when the PM must switch sides of the Leader/Manager plate, but experience, intuition, and emotional IQ help successful PMs know when to switch roles.

Key Points for each role:

1. Leadership requires vision, honest answers, and determination.

  • A great leader is like that fantastic coach or teacher you had in school
  • You may not like how hard they pushed you, but you probably would not have achieved as much without their dogged determination
  • They had a vision of future success that you thought you would never achieve on your own, but with their help, they inspired you to a great outcome
  • They often would challenge you to be better than average and to do things differently
  • Finally, you were consistently informed of your progress, shortcomings, and wins. They helped you adjust your attitude along the journey
  • Leaders think long term.

2. Management requires a determined game plan to turn visions into goals and objectives.

  • The great Manager is a traffic cop that directs the day-to-day grind and anticipates problems
  • The most compelling vision without the disciplined activities of the manager turns out to be a hallucination. Follow through is the key differentiator.
  • Managers get the right resources lined up at the right time
  • They set boundaries, rules, standards, governance, and apply consistent procedures
  • They are active listeners that roll up their sleeves and chip in to get results.
  • Managers focus on the near term.

3. Why you need to be both.

  • The right tool, mindset, and activity will vary over the course of the implementation. There will be times when either a Manager or a Leader is the right tool for the moment.
  • There is a time for project plans, timelines, and budgets.
  • There is also a time to rally the troops, seize the high ground, and lead the team out of the quicksand.
  • Successful and seasoned PMs know this and have a box full of management and leadership tools

Most business bestsellers in the airport bookstore imply that being a Leader/Manager is difficult if not nearly impossible; however, the author has the magic beans to make you a Leader/Manager. But here is the dirty little secret: anyone can be a Leader/Manager. The key is timing and knowing when a leader is needed versus when a manager is required. Here are some ways to know which side of the plate to stand on. Managers right size the organization, its resources, and herd people toward goals and objectives. Leaders are coaches that pull the organization out of its well-worn habits, inspire a theory of victory, and drives the team toward a better future.

Let the seasoned coaches at LTA help you find your inner switch hitter. Contact us, I promise we will get back to you before the first pitch!

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