How to assess leadership skills of a project manager to help project team to meet a difficult challenge?
I plan to hire a new project lead. We follow agile methodology.How do I assess the technical, leadership skills of a project manager during the interview? I know there are many job sites which may answer but I did a couple of wrong hiring earlier and this time I want to play safe.
Check the candidate’s experience and understanding of agile environment. Candidate should be able to explain the agile methodologies. Great project managers are always consistent in their deliverables, on time and within budget, project requirements meet or exceed stakeholders' expectations. Quiz them more on these lines.
Ask them how they decide scrum teams in their current organization. How they define roles of scrum team members. Find out how collaborative they are. As a project manager leader being collaborative is the most important aspect. Quiz more around,
1. When project is behind the schedule, how they will find a solution?
2. How they will identify potential risks and how they will minimize the risks?
I was an Agile projects service delivery manager for more than 5 years for multiple clients with offshore and onsite model operation. Handled many PMs and the leaders.
In addition to the above folk's sharing, I would like to share my experiences and observations on PM's role:
There are few scenarios or cases we need to consider, while assessing the leadership skills of a PM:
Let us assess first what are the critical tasks for a manager in a traditional projects management environment required:
1. Any manager is; just to plan and manage the tasks and make sure he/she is getting the required output from the team members on time, while executing the plans.
2. As a manager he/she need to make sure the mile stones are passed and the critical activities are being attended successfully by the resources.
3. The manager also needs to plan for several contingency plans and the risk mitigation plans to adhere to on time output of an activity.
4. He/she needs to apply the required policies and procedures from the company or client while operating the project. And it should be communicated to the team on time while applying them.
5. Some improvements need to be shown by the manager at different stages of the project execution.
6. The manager also needs to manage the resources administration with reference to the client or company policies.
7. Please note a manager without leadership skills is also a controller for resources. Hence the openness cannot be applied by the resources to express their views or ideas. Their work environment will not be well communicative.
These are the typical activities one might need to take care as a manager without having much leadership skills. Most of the managers lack the leadership skills. If we collect the legacy practices times, obviously no organization was looking for leadership skills in a PMs Role. Now the need is raised very much a manager also need to apply his/her leadership skills to manage resources with reference to the changes in the organizations and changing environments or work styles.
Now, let us see briefly the leadership skills, a manager need to have:
Any project or programme will have lot of dynamic changes with reference to the ad-hoc requirements or while facing the market challenges.
During these times the following need to be considered to apply the PMs Leadership skills also as mandatory to demonstrate the reduction in costing:
1. A change in adopting project plans/execution methods need to be demonstrated.
2. Changes in resources skills up-gradation are required or new staff augmentation needs to be applied.
3. He/she needs to be adopted in the changing environments along with the resources. The manager also needs to redefine the roles of the team members along with the changes happening in the project(s) and the activities. The role changes need to be educated to the team members in advance with supportive confidence and also to get an agreement before performing the new tasks. This way the relationship with the resources made easier while executing new or changed tasks.
4. A manager need to be not only as an activity/task executor, should be adopted as a mentor, coach and team builder on the changing environment. This can help the team to be acquainted to the dynamic changes of the project activities. This can help the manager to produce the team’s outputs well.
5. A manager with the leadership skills should be an innovator to the team. It can make them as creators to adopt a new technology, processes and other new changes. Also they can take more efforts to complete the critical or complex tasks or new tasks.
6. The leadership should be adept for new ideas or best practices, adopting and implementing them. This way it can demonstrate to implement as an on-going improvements for the project and to the resources skills augmentation. When it is demonstrated the value of them also need to be assessed for the team benefits and their recognition. Then it can denote the importance of this manager’s role on the project as a skilled leader.
7. The PM with leadership skills, also need to demonstrate the Return on Investment [ROI] on any new changes to the organization. This practice can make the awareness on the manager and the team’s importance to the organization to sell them for their future business.
8. The manager as a leader should have openness to receive the feedback or suggestions or criticism. These need to be converted as process improvements or changes for better outputs towards ROI.
9. A leader cum Manager also can have the attitude of getting the things done on time to meet the deadlines, by having all new changes. It should be done without demonstrating the aggressiveness. Few additional efforts need to be applied by the manager and also by the relevant teams to achieve these results.
10. This leader need to be with servant leadership skills, to be more proactive and transparent with the teams and the stakeholders. The role need to be self balanced to answer to all the related people on the project updates.
The PM cum leader should be able to practice the above key responsibilities as an on-going activity in his/her role for team’s productivity acceleration. There can be humpty number of internal and external road blocks while achieving these targets. He/she need to overcome them to show the on time results, which can demonstrate the manager and the leadership skills together.
Once the Activity completion is done, a retrospective discussion can be conducted by the manager and the team to bring up all the ad-hoc challenges faced along with the process improvements made to achieve the results. They need to include a senior management team also as part of this discussion.
The senior management team need to make sure they can take up this team’s practices to upper level in the organization to get some rewards or awards for the team. This is also the role of Project manager with leadership skills to make sure the team gets the required benefits. At the same time the team and manger are scaled up in the organization for their career progress.
All the above practices are part of the Agile project management. Depends on the timely needs they can be customized or added with new practices. While hiring an Agile PM one can assess all of them.
Hope this can add value for your screening on the candidates.
Project Management is about meeting objectives within the desired time frames, this person does NOT have to be skilled at any particular discipline, but does need to be a leader, a listener, that is openminded and be accountable for the critical path chosen.
The first thing you'll want to do is make sure the applicant has these skills explicitly stated on their resume. If not, ask them directly (sort of like a checklist).
Next, you will revisit those same checklist questions and dig deeper into situational/behavioral questions that ask them to recall a time where they exhibited those skills and what they would do in a hypothetical situation. For example, you may ask "tell me about a time where you had to manage a difficult project using agile methodology. What were your biggest difficulties and how did you overcome them?" You're listening for their response but also to their methodology and how they "think" through a solution. Listen for their thought process, communication skills and ability to manage chaos and then make your decision accordingly.
Lastly, you want to assess the answers through the lens of your company culture. Ask yourself "does this person sound like they'd fit on our team?" Remember that leadership is key and can influence other team members. This is a very important hire. You have to know for sure that this person has been tested, reflects your culture and responds how you would want your team to approach the problem.
I hope this helps!
I would need a bit more information to answer in- depth. However, what kind of project is it? Do the existing team members have excellent technical skills?
Leadership skills include technical expertise and the leadership skills would include assessment of their management/leadership style such as communication, team building, delegation, decision-making, listening skills, hands-on leadership, problem solving, development of past subordinates, time management, coaching, etc.
Some of these skills can be picked up in an intensive interview, confirmation of skills by reference checking with former bosses, peers and subordinates. From the technical skills aspect, hopefully you have individuals within the company who could measure their level of technical expertise.
I understand your concern about not hiring the wrong person so I suggest you might want to use an outside professional who interviews technical and professional people as their primary profession. It could be an individual or a firm that does psychological interviewing and testing and may be able to help with the technical evaluation.
First I suggest you profile the role. What do you want from the role? What are the skills and competencies required. Do you have a role model? What do they bring to the job?
There are many tools you can use to profile, once you have profiled the role find a candidate to match the profile. Even if you don't get a perfect match you will be able to see the gaps and manage them.
I have read a great deal on this subject and there appear to be as many different answers as there are leaders... each one swearing that their is the best model.
I have read 3 books that I cannot praise highly enough - "Tribal Leadership" by Dave Logan, "Quiet" by Susan Cain and "Give & Take" by Adam Grant... If you want to build great teams get all 3.
But my very faviourite advice is from Tribal Leadership and details what high functioning teams do differently, the;
1) Identify a set of shared core values
2) They align those shared values with a noble cause
Here is a link to Logan's Ted Talk about his research - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTkKSJSqU-I
I think you have two challenges not just one. When I ran a Tech division I switched to Agile and I found that general leadership and agile project leadership are not necessarily one in the same. I'm not sure if you use internal or 3rd party assessments for leadership, they can help as can making sure you use methodology approach questions in an interview and then give out a few obstacles after each response and see how the candidates mind handles problem solving. The Agile angle is separate, here you need brevity and drive. I found the daily "stand up" meeting with task and goal review to require someone committed to the process and able to stick to management rules to drive accomplishment without getting sidetracked by war stories, client obstacles and the malaise of familiarity. This is, of course, a brief snapshot, you will need a project plan yourself in terms of the hiring and there are some tricks to test adaptability (like conducting one of the interviews standing up). You already know the biggest mistake is a bad hire, the biggest reason is generally a poor plan so look at hiring within the same framework that Agile Methodology presents for managing a project.