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  • Writer's pictureBrian Davidson, PMP, CSM

The Yeast that Makes the Dough Rise

Project management is a critical aspect of any organization, and the role of the project manager is pivotal in guiding a project to success. The project manager is responsible for managing the team, resources, and ensuring that the project is completed on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards. However, in addition to these traditional responsibilities, the project manager can also serve as a leader who empowers and enables the team to achieve greater success. By adopting a project leadership mindset, the project manager can complement the skills of the subject matter experts on the team and help them to leverage their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. This essay will explore how a project manager, when adopting a project leadership mindset, can best serve the project team by lending skills that complement the various subject matter experts on the team, enabling them to achieve greater success at a given task or deliverable.


Project Leadership Mindset


A project leadership mindset is one that goes beyond the traditional role of a project manager as a planner and organizer. It involves adopting a more holistic approach to project management that includes not only managing the project but also leading and empowering the team. A project leader focuses on the people involved in the project, their development, and their well-being. They create a positive and supportive environment that encourages teamwork, collaboration, and continuous improvement. They also foster a culture of accountability, where team members are encouraged to take ownership of their work and are held responsible for their actions. By adopting a project leadership mindset, the project manager can create a high-performing team that is motivated, engaged, and committed to the project's success.


Role of the Project Manager in Complementing Subject Matter Experts


Subject matter experts (SMEs) are individuals with specialized knowledge or skills in a particular area or field. They are essential members of the project team as they bring valuable expertise and insights that are critical to the project's success. However, SMEs may not necessarily have the skills or experience in other areas of project management, such as communication, teamwork, or problem-solving. This is where the project manager can lend their skills to fill in the gaps and enable the SMEs to shine.


1. Enhancing Communication

Effective communication is key to the success of any project. It ensures that everyone is on the same page, understands the project goals, and knows what is expected of them. However, SMEs may not always be adept at communicating their ideas or concerns to others, especially to non-experts. The project manager can facilitate communication by creating a supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. They can also help in translating technical jargon into language that is understandable to all team members, thus ensuring that everyone is on the same page.


2. Fostering Collaboration

Collaboration is crucial for the success of a project as it leverages the collective knowledge and skills of the team. However, SMEs may sometimes find it challenging to work collaboratively with others, especially if they are used to working independently. The project manager can foster a collaborative environment by encouraging teamwork and creating opportunities for team members to work together. They can also facilitate knowledge sharing by organizing regular meetings or creating a shared workspace where team members can exchange ideas and information.


3. Enhancing Problem-solving Skills

Problem-solving is a critical skill in project management as it involves identifying and resolving issues that may arise during the project. SMEs may have in-depth knowledge in their area of expertise, but they may not necessarily have the skills or experience in solving problems that may arise in other areas of the project. The project manager can lend their problem-solving skills by helping the SMEs to identify and analyze the root causes of a problem and develop appropriate solutions. They can also facilitate brainstorming sessions and encourage creative thinking to come up with innovative solutions to complex problems.


4. Providing Feedback and Support

Feedback is essential for continuous improvement and development. However, SMEs may not always be receptive to feedback, especially if it is perceived as criticism. The project manager can provide constructive feedback that focuses on the positives as well as the areas for improvement. They can also provide support and encouragement to help the SMEs overcome their weaknesses and build on their strengths.


5. Managing Time and Resources

Effective time and resource management are crucial for the success of a project. SMEs may be experts in their field, but they may not necessarily have the skills or experience in managing their time and resources effectively. The project manager can help in this regard by providing tools and techniques for time and resource management. They can also monitor the progress of the project and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that the project stays on track.


By lending their skills in these areas, the project manager can complement the skills of the SMEs and enable them to achieve greater success at a given task or deliverable.


Benefits of Complementing SMEs' Skills


1. Maximizing Strengths

By lending their skills to complement the SMEs, the project manager can help them maximize their strengths and make a more significant contribution to the project. For example, an SME may have in-depth knowledge in a particular area, but they may not be adept at communicating their ideas to others. By helping them improve their communication skills, the project manager can enable them to share their knowledge and insights more effectively, thus maximizing their contribution to the project.


2. Overcoming Weaknesses

Similarly, by lending their skills to complement the SMEs, the project manager can help them overcome their weaknesses and become more well-rounded professionals. For example, an SME may be an expert in their field, but they may struggle with time management. By providing tools and techniques for effective time management, the project manager can help them manage their time more effectively and become more productive.


3. Enhancing Team Performance

By lending their skills to complement the SMEs, the project manager can enhance the overall performance of the team. A well-rounded team with complementary skills is more likely to work collaboratively and effectively towards a common goal. For example, by enhancing the communication and collaboration skills of the SMEs, the project manager can create a more cohesive and high-performing team.


4. Increasing Project Success

Ultimately, by lending their skills to complement the SMEs, the project manager can increase the likelihood of the project's success. A well-rounded and high-performing team is more likely to complete the project on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards. For example, by enhancing the problem-solving skills of the SMEs, the project manager can enable them to identify and resolve issues more effectively, thus increasing the likelihood of the project's success.


Conclusion


In conclusion, a project manager, when adopting a project leadership mindset, can best serve the project team by lending skills that complement the various subject matter experts on the team. By enhancing communication, fostering collaboration, enhancing problem-solving skills, providing feedback and support, and managing time and resources, the project manager can help the SMEs maximize their strengths, overcome their weaknesses, and make a more significant contribution to the project. Ultimately, this can lead to a more well-rounded and high-performing team, and increase the likelihood of the project's success. Therefore, it is essential for the project manager to adopt a project leadership mindset and lend their skills to complement the SMEs on the team.

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