Building the power of the project manager

Building the power of the project manager

Project manager’s leadership style can have a tremendous impact on the overall project success. Getting people to cooperate and perform is not an easy task. We all know about the five types of power, but what’s far more interesting is how should you build on this power as a project manager.

How to build expert power

Building the expert power can take years, and maintaining it is something you should be doing continuously. Both studying and extensive practice is required to become an expert in any area; there will be no easy way.

Being an expert is required to build the expert power, but is not sufficient. To be recognized as an expert, you will have to promote your image of an expert in the organization.

Share your knowledge with others

Use your expert knowledge to help people solve their problems. There’s no way you can overdo helping - so help till it hurts.

Give internal training

Contribute to the success of your organization by giving internal training. If your organization has a formal learning and training system, make sure you register as an internal training provider.

Offer to mentor your colleagues in your area of knowledge

Mentoring your colleagues will help you to make mutually beneficial working relationships, and also will help to build your image of an expert.

How to build legitimate power

In project orientated and strong matrix organizations, you will generally have significant legitimate power by being the manager of your team. In other types of organizations, it may not always be possible for you to gain full legitimate power. However, you should follow the steps below for any organization structure.

Obtain formal recognition

First, make sure the project charter clearly states that you are the manager of the project. The project charter should be approved at least by the project sponsor and you.

Depending on the organization context, you will want to make sure the project is registered with the PMO, and has its place on the roadmap and/or the annual plan.

Make a responsibility assignment matrix

A RACI matrix will clarify the roles and responsibilities that you hold as the project manager, the project sponsor, the team, and of the other stakeholders.

In a weak matrix or a functional organization, it is especially important to include functional managers in the RACI and clearly outline their responsibilities in the context of your project.

Seek authority from the management

If neither you nor the project sponsor has a formal management position, seek authorization from the senior management.

How to build referent power

To build the referent power, you should focus on how you are perceived as an individual in the organization. People will follow your lead if you come across as a person who is successful, dependable, and fun to work alongside.

Being successful

Do not be shy in making your project success visible. Talk to your colleagues about the positive impact that your project made on the customer and your company. When doing this make sure you give the well-deserved credit to your team members.

Know what are the goals of your team members regarding career and professional development and do your best to help them to achieve their goals on the project.

Your co-workers will learn that not only you deliver your projects, but you also help your team to be successful.

Being dependable

As a project manager, you should take responsibility and live up to it. Working on a project is by definition unpredictable. You are making something new that nobody has done before, you are doing it in a changing unpredictable environment, and you have to rely on the work of other people.

In this setup, it’s tempting to take as little responsibility as possible. Moreover, while still trying to cover your ass with a thick risk charter may seem a good way to achieve safety, it will not score you any reputation points. As a project manager, you should maintain a positive attitude, confidence, and decisiveness.

Don’t forget; you should never ever hide behind the backs of your team.

Being interesting and fun to work with

Make the job content interesting, continuously improve, learn on the go, and don’t forget to have fun while you are on the project!

How to build reward power

Many people think that the reward power can only be exercised if you have a budget for monetary benefits for the team. While having an extra budget certainly is a plus, but it is not a strict necessity.

Give praise

Thanking your colleagues for their work can go a long way. Give praise in public where appropriate. To give praise without sounding patronizing, be specific in stating the achievement and the reason why it mattered for the project. Remember that unfair praise will demotivate your team.

Make use of existing systems

If your company has an established reward and recognition system, make sure you are making good use of it. Things like bonus payment, stock options, “gold stars” etc. can be an excellent asset for you as the project manager to build the reward power.

Use the best projects as a reward

Reward by assigning on the most exciting projects or giving the most interesting tasks. Be careful about not taking this advice too literally - of course; the project assignments should be done first of all with the best interest of the customer in mind. Still, there are situations where assigning people to interesting and challenging projects based on the past success makes much sense.

Reflect success in the performance review

Clearly mention the success of your team member in their performance review sheets, so that their success is formally recognized.

In a functional or weak matrix organization, make sure that the functional manager will do so.

How to build coercive power

Coercive power relies on fear, and as such should be used with great caution and only when other means will not work. Be aware that the use of coercive power will quickly ruin the motivation of the employee. Usually, you can only achieve temporary performance improvement and only through constant supervision.

Should you need to use it, remember never to apply punishment in public.

Title photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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