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Leading projects

Elissa Farrow
December 11, 2014

In my last blog post I mentioned I had the great pleasure of co-facilitating a workshop on Leading Project Teams with Korrine Jones from OD Consulting at the Australian Institute of Project Management National Conference. Korrine and I have worked together on a number of consulting and learning activities and we complement each other’s styles, approaches and areas of specialisation. Korrine has a long history of expertise in leadership, in particular leading virtual teams, and I, as some of my regular readers know, have in-depth experience in supporting effective delivery of major change programs and projects.

Effective leadership and sponsorship of projects is essential for project success. As we know, people problems are one of the primary obstacles in any project. Often the focus is on the core deliverables rather than ensuring the team members that are delivering them are the right mix and working in the most optimised way.

The workshop Korrine and I presented covered the challenge for leaders, which is: ‘how can I get everyone to adopt a common focus on a common purpose and objectives?’ It is a challenge when there is pressure to complete the practical day-to-day acts of being a project or program manager around time, cost, quality and risk with the need to also ensure the team itself is being led, as opposed to being managed.

We challenged our workshop participants with a number of activities including a brainstorm on what the attributes were of an effective leader, how to build a shared team charter and principles, as well as what the key leader lessons learnt were from previous experience.

We had a mix of experienced and less experienced project leaders in the room so therefore peer learning and storytelling was a primary part of information transfer. Participants highlighted lessons ranging from the need to remain flexible, practising patience but holding firm when necessary, strategic connection and relationships as well as effective and open communication up and down the project governance and team structure.

We also gave all our participants an opportunity to take the Leadership Practice Inventory (LPI) created by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. The LPI focuses on four core elements. The one element most commonly related to was enable others to action and inspire a shared vision. Korrine has used this tool as part of her programs for some time and it always highlights the areas of strength and how people typically behave in projects.

The session finished with a personal reflection on embracing diversity in each team and the need to walk the talk.

  • Publicly championing and positively communicating the value of project or program management.
  • Personal, active and positive participation in the process.
  • Contributing their expertise to the development of organisational portfolio.
  • Explaining the rationale for decisions to your employees.
  • Personally demonstrating the behaviours essential to success—‘walk the talk’.

Overall a great session and we were pleased with the results. This is part of a broader series of project leader and sponsor programs Korrine and I have designed together so this 1.5-hour highlights session brought renewed attention to the importance of not just being a project or program manager but leading through those processes to get results.

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Elissa Farrow
Elissa is a founder and lead consultant for About Your Transition and has extensive experience in strategic organisational adaptation design, facilitation and delivery. Elissa has supported organisations to define positive futures and then successfully transform to bring lasting benefits. She has proven adaptative capacity and can successfully transfer her skills to different contexts. In 2018, Elissa commenced her doctoral studies through the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her published research is exploring organisational adaptation to the evolving field of artificial intelligence using qualitative and participatory research methodologies. Elissa is an experienced board director and considered a thought leader in her field having won a number of national and local awards for contributing to Women in Project Management and for Change Management Research.
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