Leveraging Employee Strengths for Project Success
An effective project manager is crucial to business success when the delivery of products and services are the core competencies and have a direct impact on the company's bottom line. A project manager may be educated, experienced, and certified, but if not set up to succeed, anyone will fail in an environment where people development is not part of the organizational strategy. Managers who lead a project management office (PMO) should be aware of the concept of strengths management and understand how employees’ skills and strengths undergird the success of the PMO. Employing this concept allows for the strategic management of projects, leveraging strengths where project managers excel. While there is an abundance of information in different circles discussing skills and talent, the invisible obvious is simply that skills are learned, and strengths are clearly skills that employees perform with purpose and passion.
Benefits of Strengths Management
Employees are individually unique, and when they have comparable job titles, such as project manager, it does not mean they are equal in skills or strengths. Having a myriad of strengths in the PMO can give you competitive advantage if you understand the needs of the organization, have a strategy for how to acquire talent, and a plan to utilize your team’s strengths effectively. The complexity of this strategy is introduced when there is not a real plan for managing to the performance measure and leveraging strengths in alignment with the organizational goals. The benefits for utilizing strengths management, which outweigh any risks, include a high level of employee engagement, effective delivery of projects, an illustration of competitive advantage, and a natural maturity progression for the PMO, among others.
Let's take a look at four areas where you can begin to employ this concept of strengths management:
Knowing Your Team
Before you can begin to adequately leverage your team's strengths, you should identify the type of assessments that will aid you in your plan. Skills assessments, personality type indicators, and strengths surveys all provide insight into who your employees are and their natural abilities. These assessments can also provide confirmation for employees who never took the time to validate what they do well and why. Your ability to connect with your employees through regular one on one conversations, and positive and constructive feedback will further help to encourage and coach employees to meet performance goals.
Identifying the Skills Gap
After conducting assessments for your team, the challenge now becomes identifying the missing skills based on the organization's goals. The most practical way to approach this is to understand the company's vision, then outline the skills needed in the PMO to provide support (referencing a PMO maturity model may provide insight into the skills needed). Taking inventory of the strengths your team does not possess, and whether training will allow you to harness those skills, is integral to completing the skills gap exercise and creating a justification for hiring talent. Making the decision to develop employees on your team to compensate for the skills gap will not only involve training, but also time and commitment through stretch assignments and feedback.
Acquiring the Right Skills
Once you have identified the skills needed, and if hiring talent is the direction, be thoughtful in your approach for how you will acquire those skills. Work closely with your recruiter and help her understand the department’s goal and the type of talent you have an interest in. Adding to your skills portfolio through hiring will take a strategic recruitment plan, and not just the resumes submitted to your company's job portal. Ensure that you don't have a short timeline to fill this void, then connect with peers for recommendations. This is one area where your network may demonstrate its value.
Aligning to the Organization
One of the most challenging parts of this initiative after identifying your team's strengths is aligning to the organization's goals.
Challenges You May Encounter:
- If you don't have a seat at the table during your organization's strategy sessions, then you must have an efficient way to gain access to the information.
- If the strategy changes often, it will be a moving target to convey how you are supporting the goals.
- If you don't have a champion or executive support for this initiative, you may not be able to make a big impact on illustrating the importance of this strategy for the organization and the PMO.
Acquiring the skills needed and aligning to the goals is a major part of the strategy, but the execution is equally important. To effectively execute in this area involves continuous improvement exercises that make the PMO not only the messenger of change management but also the example. The final leg of this journey includes collaborating with your team for strategic sessions, re-calibrating roles and reporting structures, creating stretch assignments, and partnering with your employees for success.
Stacey Rivers is the Director of Technical Project Management in the Global Technology and Operations Division at Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc. In this role, Rivers oversees a team of Project Managers and Business Analysts responsible for delivering global solutions for the content supply chain. Rivers' other responsibilities include defining, planning, and prioritizing initiatives necessary to evolve and improve the project management discipline, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, employee growth and development, and organizational development. She has a Master of Science in Management with a focus on Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness, and a Bachelor of Science in Technology Management