(Part 3 in a 3-Part Series on PM Overwhelm)
This is the third post in a series about Overwhelm.
As ideas tend to develop, it started when I was feeling quite a bit overwhelmed and didn’t feel like writing my weekly Leadership Blog. But I didn’t want to let my readers down. I had to “show up”.
So that’s what I wrote about.
In that post, I talked about how the first step to overcoming overwhelm is to remember why we’re a Project Manager in the first place.
We really do enjoy what we do for a living – and wouldn’t actually give it all up to paint fences (and if you would, what are you waiting for? Follow your bliss!).
Last week I continued with one of the chief causes of overwhelm in project management: delegation…or lack thereof.
Sometimes it’s so hard to “let go and let someone else on the team.” Whether we feel we can do it better ourselves or we don’t want to put more on someone else’s plate, it leaves too much on our plate!
The focus of that post was about how we can learn where we should be delegating and how to ease into proper delegation.
Now it’s time to turn our attention to our team and how our overwhelm – and lack of delegation – affects them.
Because if we hold onto tasks that our team should be responsible for, then we cause more harm than just to ourselves!
Here are a few ways our teams can suffer when we don’t delegate properly:
- They don’t learn as much about the project or their part of the solution being implemented
- They can feel undervalued, unimportant, or not trusted
- They don’t grow as a team
- They don’t have a Project Manager with enough mental capacity for guidance or help
I’m a mom, so I have an analogy with parenting. As our children grow, we teach them skills appropriate to their age and ability. My kids started doing their own laundry when they could work the washer & drier. Then they learned how to cook a meal on the stove. Then came driving lessons.
These life skills (my kids call it “Adulting 101”) will help them be successful and more confident when they live on their own.
Will I still be available to answer questions? Yes. Is there always more to learn? Of course. But they won’t grow if I don’t teach them, let them try, ruin a few dinners, and figure out how to do better the next time.
Bringing it back to project management, part of our job as a leader is to develop our team.
The goal is not to train them on their vocation (engineering, programming, marketing, etc.). These are the skills that brought them onto the project in the first place. The goal is to help them be successful and more confident as individual players and as a working group.
Many team members are hyper-focused on their job in their discipline. They’re comfortable & successful in their lane. But the project works better when there’s more cross-pollination.
When we help our people pick their head up and look around, they grow.
For example, if there’s a roadblock in the manufacturing piece of the project, maybe we help determine the right people to be in the meeting…and let our manufacturing lead handle the call. Just be there to guide and make sure decisions are made and action items assigned.
If it takes more than one meeting, consider letting go of the reins even more. Take a step back. Do we really need to be there? Will our lead be able to bring the issue to resolution?
Easing the team into running their own small group issue meetings counters the problems we mentioned above. With proper delegation:
- The team is learning about the project and their part in it’s success
- They feel valued and important – trusted by their PM to work through an issue broader than their one area
- Because there’s a cross-functional team involved, the whole team grows as a unit
But what about the struggle the team has with us? What about the issue that says “They don’t have a Project Manager with enough mental capacity for guidance and help”?
That’s where our team’s growth helps us with our overwhelm!
Back to parenting, every time I teach my kids a new skill, it helps ease a bit out of my own schedule. I no longer do their laundry. Knowing how to cook plus a driver’s license means they can successfully go to the store to buy groceries for the family…and help with dinner!
Yes, they’re not ready to run their own household – I still need to guide, handle the bigger responsibilities, keep them “on task”.
Same thing for project management: we’re still in charge and ultimately responsible. But we will spend more time guiding and less time “taking over”. Properly delegating to our team members means we have more time and mental energy for our team’s questions.
In the end, it takes all 3 components to drain our overflowing cup:
- Remembering why we signed up for this job in the first place
- Acknowledging what is truly our role as a PM…and what really belongs to someone else
- Intentionally looking for ways to help the team grow – and then doing it
Honestly, when we start from a place of overwhelm, even steps to help ourselves can feel like too much. So break it down into the tiniest pieces possible. Doing just a little bit every day adds up to big changes before long.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember: you’re a Project Manager. You organize, you problem solve, you move tough projects forward…you got this!
Stay safe, stay healthy – and lead on!