Every project manager has been there – that meeting where you walk into the room and you can almost see the eye rolls from the project team as they realize you’re a project manager. They may not say it, but they are thinking, “Great; someone else to tell us how to do our job.” That’s when you know that you’ve got a team who has been working with a stressed-out project manager.
When a project manager shows up and starts dictating who should be doing what and when instead of collaborating with the team, you know they haven’t had enough time for relaxation and self-care. But approaching project management from this angle isn’t going to get the best outcome for the project manager, the team, the project, or the patients.
The Real Purpose of the Project Manager
There’s a great saying that goes: when we believe in ourselves, we can make anything happen. Taking this thought a step further, I would say that when we believe in our teams, we can also make anything happen.
Your primary role as the project manager isn’t about making sure the drawings are finished or the beams are installed correctly on site. Your primary role in the project team is to act as a facilitator – a conduit for all the knowledge contained within the project team, connecting the dots and funneling information to the person who needs it. To do this effectively, you need to build a relationship with your team so they feel they can approach you.
You don’t build relationships by dictating to people – at least, not good relationships. Instead, when you turn up with the attitude that you need to take care of the team because by doing so they can perform their best and create a better patient experience, you set the tone for the project. If you set this intention from the start of the project, you will foster a team culture of empowerment and collaboration. Collaboration is an art that must be practiced every day.
Emulating Family Traditions
I learned this from my grandmother, a strong woman who raised seven children on her own. Every Sunday, when the whole family would gather at her house for our traditional Sunday dinner, she would make sure to speak to everyone, make them feel welcome, and hear their stories. She was a master at collecting story details which she would then knit together over the dinner table. Her use of storytelling was not just a process, but an art that required no tools. She would do things like mention to my uncle that one of my cousins wanted to study criminal justice and suggest that he could arrange some work experience for her.
Whatever everyone had told my grandmother would be mentioned, making everyone feel important and heard. It was also her way of getting valuable information to the people who could do the most good with it. In many ways, this is the role of the project manager, only you are guiding a team to complete a healthcare project.
Facilitate, Don’t Dictate
If you want the best project outcomes, you need to work as a facilitator and not a dictator. And the best way to do this is to build a relationship with your team. I talk about this skill in more detail in my upcoming book, Health Well Done: A Patient-Centered Management Approach to Building Healthcare Environments which will be available this Fall – sign up to be the first to hear when it’s released.