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Home arrow Management arrow IT Project Management: A Geek Guide to Leadership


Today, most leaders want to empower you. They want to give you the authority and responsibility to deliver successful IT projects. They need you to tell them the ground truth. They need you to help them understand the status of your project. They need to know what you need from them as well in order to meet schedule, cost, and quality requirements. They need you to lead your team members—to motivate them to provide IT solutions that meet the users’ requirements.

You need to be ready to perform when they give you the opportunity. The Project Management Institute (PMI®) conducted a Role Delineation Study for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification. In this study, they advised project managers to “enhance individual competence by increasing and applying professional knowledge to improve services.” Doing this “requires knowledge of personal strengths and weaknesses, appropriate professional competencies. Requires skills in self-assessment, developmental planning, and obtaining and applying new information and practices” (Project Management Institute, 2000).

In this chapter, I describe how to use self-talk to improve your self-leadership, and I provide you with a process called the Self-Leadership Cycle, which will help you enhance your individual competence as a leader. Through this process, you can learn to take initiative and to exercise a growth mindset. You can become a self-directed leader.

In any circumstance, leaders have to adapt to new situations and changes first, before they can lead their team members. Adapting in this manner requires you to change how you think about leading and working with others.

Let’s take a look at how Tony, a fictional character based on some of my real-life experiences, faces a challenging situation that requires him to adapt his thinking in order to become a project manager.

Things Are Changing

“Tony, I need to tell you something,” James said. “Not now, man,” Tony replied. “I need to finish this systems architecture document for the server farm. I just got the network load balancing configuration working in the lab and I want to make a final update to the document and send it out for review today.”

“That’s cool—I’ll call you after work,” James replied.

“I am proactive. I keep my commitments and obtain my goals,” Tony thought.

On the drive home, Tony’s phone rang, and James’ picture appeared on the screen. Tony answered in hands-free mode. “James! What’s going on?” he said.

“Hey, I quickly reviewed the architecture doc—man, it looks good. It should get through the review board very quickly,” James said. “Thanks,” replied Tony. “So what did you want to tell me?” “I just got a promotion and I’m going to another program,” said James. “Wow! Congrats!” exclaimed Tony. “What’s the new position?”

“I’m going to be a senior architect on the Dillinger program. You know, the word on the street is that the Baker program that we’re on is going to be cancelled. The great work we’re doing may never go into production, so I decided to apply with Dillinger,” replied James.

“Yes, I heard about that. Smart move on your part. Congrats again, man!” Tony said.

As Tony and James hung up, Tony thought, “Wow, James made the right move. The last time a program was cancelled, the whole team got laid off. I’m a good architect, but I’m no James. I need to figure this out.”

Then Tony said to himself, “I begin with the end in mind. I create success first in my mind and then in my life.”

The next day, Terry, Tony’s boss, asked to see him in Terry’s office. “Uh oh,” Tony thought. Tony sat in a chair across from Terry’s desk. He was wringing his hands, but Terry didn’t notice because he couldn’t see Tony’s hands over the desk.

“You did a great job on the architecture document, Tony,” Terry said. “Thanks,” Tony replied, exhaling. Terry continued, “I’ve noticed that you’re a good architect Tony, but I think you’re a better project manager. I’ve noticed how organized you are, and you’re a good writer. Have you ever thought about becoming an IT project manager?” “I do enjoy project management,” Tony replied, “but I haven’t given it much thought.”

“You should,” said Terry. “I see you with a Six Sigma certification or a PMP®. You should think about that. Once the Baker program ends, there will be new project management opportunities in the company as we stand up the PMO. I recom mend that you prepare yourself.”

“Interesting,” Tony replied. “Thanks for the feedback and the advice. I’ll give this some thought.”

That evening, Tony attended the systems engineering class he was taking for his master’s degree. Aaron, Tony’s professor, made it a habit to mentor the promising students in his classes. Tony admired Aaron because he was smart and successful, and just an overall great person.

Referring to Tony’s self-talk statements during their one-on-one session after class, Aaron said to Tony, “OK, let me hear it.”

“I am proactive. I keep my commitments and obtain my goals,” Tony begins.

“I begin with the end in mind. I create success first in my mind and then in my life.

“I put first things first. I organize and execute around my priorities.

“I seek first to understand and then to be understood. When I listen, I rephrase content and reflect feeling. When I respond, I present my ideas clearly, specifically, visually, and contextually.

“I think win/win. I constantly seek mutually beneficial solutions.

“I seek positive synergy. I utilize conflicting opinions to create third alternative solutions.

“I’m balanced and sharp. I ‘sharpen the saw.’ I constantly learn, do, and commit to activities that promote physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual improvement.”

“Great,” Aaron said. “You flowed right through those. Everyone morning and every night, right?”

“That’s right,” Tony replied. “I recorded them on my phone as you suggested. I listened to them every day and every night until I memorized them. Now I recite them at least once a day in the mirror, and throughout the day.”

Aaron had attended a seminar with Lou Tice from The Pacific Institute. He combined Tice’s ideas on self-talk with Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey, 1989) to create specific affirmations—constructive selftalk—which he used to mentor his students.

“You weren’t yourself tonight in class,” Aaron said. “Something wrong?”

“Things are changing at work,” Tony replied. “The program I’m working on may get cancelled before we’re complete. My boss says I should think about becoming a project manager to prepare for life after this program. I’m trying to visualize myself as an IT project manager.”

“Begin with the end in mind,” Aaron said. “Your boss is right, you know. I have noticed your leadership abilities during class, on group projects. IT projects have a high failure rate, and we need good project managers in the industry. Since you’re thinking so hard about this, it’s obviously something you want to do. Tell you what, why don’t you sign up for the Project Management course next quarter, and then take the PMP® once you finish. You

should also use the 10-Page Plan to get through the PMBOK® Guide (Project Management Institute, 2013a) while you’re taking the class. This will help you pass both the PM course

and the PMP® exam. The quarter starts next week, so you can begin right away. What do you think?”

“Let me think about it. I’ll email you tomorrow and let you know,” Tony replied.

“Introverts need time to think,” Aaron remembered.

The next day, Tony sent Aaron this message: “I appreciate your advice, as usual. I am ready to make the commitment to become a great IT project manager, and I know with your help, I can achieve this goal.”

Tony followed Aaron’s advice to the letter. Over the next three months, he joined the Project Management Institute (PMI®) and earned an A in his project management course. He followed the 10-Page Plan that Aaron had taught him, studying 10 pages per day, every

day, enabling him to read the PMBOK® Guide twice while taking his project management course. This prepared him to pass the PMP® certification exam. Tony then notified the HR department at his employer to add the PMP® certification to his records.

Tony called James at his desk and asked as he picked up, “James, do you have a minute?”

“Absolutely,” James replied. “I heard Baker was cancelled. What’s going on with you?” “How do you feel about Dillinger?” Tony asked.

James answered, “Great, man, we’re fully funded, and we’re leveraging the work we did on the Baker program.”

“Yes,” Tony said. “Terry told me today that I need to transition my documentation from Baker to you. You’ll be hearing about this from your boss soon. The reason I’m calling is to let you know I got promoted to project manager, and I will be in the new PMO. I’ll be managing projects on Dillinger, among other projects.”

“That’s awesome,” James said. “I’m looking forward to working with you again!!”

Tony sent Aaron another email: “I got the promotion! I’d like to thank you by taking you to dinner—we can celebrate and talk about the next challenge!”

“Outstanding!” Aaron replied. “You’ve embarked on your leadership journey!”

“I am a leader who demonstrates excellent project management skills,” Tony said to himself.

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