Overcoming Common Project Leadership Challenges

Project management leaders have a lot on their plates, and are faced with specific leadership challenges. They’re charged with executing projects successfully while also overseeing budgets, soliciting stakeholder support, negotiating contracts and vendor agreements, supporting strategic initiatives, and developing their employees’ skills and expertise.

With everything going on in the typical Project Team, leadership challenges are often lurking on the periphery. Team leaders should always be on the lookout for these dangers and have an effective solution ready to implement before productivity suffers.

Project management leadership

Lack of staff. Staffing concerns come from many directions, but having too few team members to tackle the existing or anticipated workload is perhaps the most common. Careful planning and portfolio management are instrumental in preventing staffing shortages from impacting the team’s ability to successfully execute projects. The project office’s leadership must be diligent when working with stakeholders to set scope and time-frame expectations for each project they agree to undertake.

Low morale. In order to successfully address issues of low morale, the Project Team’s leadership must first dig down to the root(s) of the problem. Employees may be seeking better pay, they may feel there are too few advancement opportunities, they may be worried about the organization’s long-term viability, or they may be looking for more challenging projects to work on. The leadership team should initiate some candid conversations within the team to determine the core issues and see where opportunities exist to address employees’ concerns.

Gaps in expertise. This issue sometime stems from wider staffing issues (e.g., simply not enough PMP®s on the team) but often it’s more acute than that. Niche skills—whether they’re industry-focused or related to the scale or complexity of a specific project—could be missing. Project Teams seeking to fill those types of gaps may want to consider the feasibility of contracting with a project management consultancy. These outside experts can be available as needed, and will bring the sort of very deep expertise that is often too expensive for Project Teams to justify staffing internally.

Inconsistent support from stakeholders. Lackluster backing from key partners can spell disaster for a Project Team. Clear expectations must be set at the outset of every project and support levels monitored throughout each project’s life-cycle. When stakeholders know what’s required of them, resolving any issues that do arise is much more straightforward. In addition, by keeping an eye on the level of support the team has coming in, the Project Team’s leadership will be better able to restore the necessary assistance before the team’s progress is impacted.

Lean funding. There’s often a distinction made between project-related funding and the more general funding a Project Team needs to maintain its operational activities. Securing resources for approved projects is (typically) less difficult than doing the same for day-to-day management of the project office. If budget approvals aren’t forthcoming, additional justifications may include the risks the Project Team runs if project management training and other internal needs aren’t met. These could range from the inability to recruit key team members to failure to execute projects because the team lacks training or other support.

Monotony. It’s something many PMP®s are hesitant to discuss, but the repetitive nature of project management—often compounded by a lack of variety when it comes to project types—can chip away at a team’s enthusiasm. While it may be difficult to inject different project profiles into the workload, Project Team leaders do have some tools available to combat boredom. Training is one solution, offering PMP®s the opportunity to expand their knowledge in a stimulating (but still safe) environment. Mentoring programs are also helpful, as they provide team members with a way to learn about projects they may have little exposure to normally.

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