I watch a lot of baseball (most specifically Giants baseball). I really like Bruce Bochy and his management style, and how that style results in a really connected and focused team. One of his most appealing quotes is this: 'Coach from the clubhouse, not the game.' I often think about how true this is for project managers.
I'm all about the people part of project management and balancing it with the process. This quote perfectly captures the essence of emotional and social intelligence. You need to build a strong foundation and have everyone moving in the same direction before things get crazy.
And you know it always does get crazy. There are rushes to milestones, rushes to change requirements at the last minute, new competitive news - no matter how well we plan, at some point in any project we're going to be in react mode. If we do our job on the people side - team building, motivation, building relationships, building skills - and do good risk management and contingency planning on the process side, those crazy times will be busy but not panicked.
So, how to coach from the clubhouse?
- Build relationships with the various members of your team and with the team as an entity
- Get your processes under control early in the project - lay them out, get buy-in, and enforce them - so that when things get crazy everyone is used to following the process.
- Understand what motivates the individuals you work with so you can help get them through rough spots
- Outline the goals of the project and review them in every meeting to help your team keep their eyes on the prize
- Start a risk register, keep it current, and review it with your team every meeting. (This takes building contingency and mitigation plans into account so you're ready to spring into action in an organized response.)