How to grow from a team leader to a project manager in IT? – part 2
So you are a PM who grew out of a TL. What are the challenges you might encounter?
- Code. It is necessary to stop “writing code”. Yes, once again - stop doing it. Immediately. Otherwise, you will not be a PM.
- Knowledge. Your old knowledge as a specialist may hinder you. It is difficult to realize this. Even more difficult to accept it.
- Deterioration. Your abilities will deteriorate (ladder ¹1).
- Authority. You need to understand how customers/superiors actually think (this includes reporting to them, as well as corresponding/communicating with them). You are now on the other side of the barricades, and you have to understand this side. Especially the customers. They suddenly cease to be an enemy generating "strange" requests, and become the ones whose position and whose opinion is vital for you to find out and understand. Many PMs cannot achieve this skill for years.
- Alien. When you start to manage your colleagues, you no longer belong to their group. They suddenly cease to share their experiences, opinions and the situation in the project with you. Because you have acquired the power to reward and punish. An incorrect word they say could affect their bonus or cause any number of challenges. That’s why they don’t share.
At the same time with such a serious blow to your worldview, your area of responsibility changes. Now you are not only responsible for the “code”, but also for the people, for the delivery (time, quality, scope, customer satisfaction, etc.), sometimes even for the budget and salaries as well as the contract.
It is a fundamentally different level of responsibility. Not everyone is ready and able to withstand it. Especially if you wanted to become a PM because due to the 4th, 5th or 6th misconception (see above). Just imagine - now you will be punished not only for your own failure, but also for the failures of each of your subordinates! If you have 10 employees, it is 10 times more punishment than you had before. This trick regarding responsibility makes many people turn back until it is too late, and until they have not lost their skills as specialists. And this deterioration is inexorable. By the way, you won’t be able to sit on both chairs. Being a PM while at the same time solving TL issues professionally will not lead to anything good. You will fail on both directions and risk your entire career, and perhaps even your health, which is not great at all.
Does everyone have to be a PM?
- Remember the principle of Peter Lawrence (Dr. Lawrence Johnston Peter), or re-read the book with the same name.
- How to identify those who really need want to become a PM?
- Do they really want it? What does their behavior, facts and results say? A TL must be willing and able to become a PM! If you are a manager that is considering growing your TL, make sure they can comply with a completely whole new set of responsibilities. Can they do it? Do they want to do it? Their verbal statements are not enough.
A TL must be willing and able to become a PM!
If you are a manager that is considering growing your TL, make sure they can comply with a completely whole new set of responsibilities. Can they do it? Do they want to do it? Their verbal statements are not enough. A TL must demonstrate with facts and actions that he/she is willing and able to become a PM. Give them a pilot project, and the opportunity to make mistakes, support them in their “challenges” and based on the results of the pilot project talk to your TL and assess his/her level of preparedness for the new role (not the position). And if the level is not 100% yet, then find out what is required to make it 100%. Make a list with dates and clear milestones. If the TL is ready to follow the list – he/she is a potential PM. If he/she is not willing to invest and is not aware of all of the issues mentioned above - then it is not worth it. Perhaps not worth it for now.
If you are a TL, and you want to become a PM - learn and practice to be a PM regardless of the plans your manager has. If your manager helps you – then it’s perfect. You are very lucky. No kidding. Such aid is golden. If your manager does not help you – then it's not bad, you just have to put in a little more effort. Demonstrate not with words but with deeds and facts that you are willing to take responsibility for others and are already doing it (“here is a list of when it happened and what positive results were achieved”). Ask for a small sandbox, a pilot project where you could practice and make mistakes (everyone makes them) without a critical risk for the main project. Ask your manager for help. Set aside an hour a week to talk. Half an hour a day. Any convenient time slot for him. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Make a plan with the manager of what you need to master to become a PM. Do not be frightened if your plan is big. Remember – it's a different profession. And the skills and knowledge needed there are quite different.
- TLs should realize that “sitting and waiting patiently”! = “Guaranteed growth to a PM in a few years”.
- Thinking in the style of “get up and do it” is exactly what is required for a PM. Thinking in the style of “salary-loan-vacation” is still more or less suitable for a TL, but not suitable for a PM.
- Be proactive.
- The self-perception of your role in the team, project, company is important.
- You really need to know how to work with people.
- Constant willingness to develop oneself, learn and change, take responsibility for others is critically important.
All this and many more are soft skills, without which you will still be a TL wearing a PM uniform (new job name). A new uniform is nice, of course, but inside you are still the same TL. Do you want this? Was this the thing you started everything for?
Well, do you realize what you are up to? Really? And you still want to become a PM? If so, then review the list of misconceptions and pitfalls again. Yes, yes, right now, go to these lists and revise them carefully, even if you still remember them.
Finished? Are you still here? Then just for you in the next article I will write where, in my view, you should start rebuilding your mindset towards “being a PM” if you are really ready to do it – ready to become a real leader (Simon Sinek discusses one of these traits in his speech at TED).