Break in the Chain

A little coaching can fuel confidence in a project team member (Image courtesy sidewalk_flying @ Flickr)
A little coaching can fuel confidence in a project team member (Image courtesy sidewalk_flying @ Flickr)

No matter how much we stress communication, there will always be a breakdown or two somewhere in the process. Despite the sometimes dire consequences, we accept that humans make errors and account for this by establishing procedures and setting standards.

But all of the policy in the world will not work if you have a staff member who honestly feels that he is doing the “right” thing even if he bends the rules a bit.  How can a manager or supervisor hold someone accountable for something that they simply do not perceive as wrong?  How can you, as a project manager, resolve this sort of issue?

The most fundamental assessments of an individual’s likely success are measures of two aspects: their skill and their attitude. Skill is fairly straightforward. Either someone has been properly trained for their role or not. Attitude is trickier. In this context, we are really talking about whether the individual’s goals correspond with the organization’s.

As a PM, this issue comes up quite often, and can develop into a full fledged conflict if left unchecked. If your organization has a dedicated HR department, it is usually assumed that they have done some homework to determine that a particular individual is a suitable match for a particular position. As with nuclear weapons, “Trust, but verify.”

If you truly have someone who needs (and accepts) coaching, by all means attack the problem head-on. Make the standards clear, and supervise heavily. Involve a supervisor if need be to ensure coaching and its results ends up on the next performance evaluation. Some potential areas of improvement that may not be apparent at first glance:

– Confidence: Is the individual comfortable asking for help when needed?

– Clarify personal goals: Demonstrate how the organizational structure will benefit the individual’s own personal and career growth.

– Complacency: Has the job become too routine? Are projects providing the right intrinsic motivation and challenge?

In short, there is a reason for every communication breakdown. As a PM, it is your job to identify and address them before they adversely affect the project and organizational goals.

Image courtesy Flickr by sidewalk_flying and reused with permission.

Jason Burke is a Project Manager at Project Management Underground, his experience ranges from engineering design (literally underground) in a California gold mine and a Montana platinum mine to management of a variety of land development projects.  He enjoys sharing his experiences and insights with others, especially those in the engineering industries.  But anyone can benefit from business management “best practices” as well.



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