As a project manager, you may have a stable team that stays with you from project to project, or you may have different team members for each project. Regardless of whether your team is permanent or temporary, as the project manager, you have both the opportunity and responsibility to engage in career development with your team members.
How do you engage in career development when the pressure is on to deliver new products and services? Often, team members are selected because they bring specific skills to the project. Engaging in career development may seem outside the realm of the project. Here are some easy steps to integrate career development into your project management practices:
- Talk to team members about their interests and career direction. Even if someone reports to you only on this project, learning about their interests may reveal opportunities for future engagements. Showing interest in individuals also builds loyalty and connection, this supports project performance.
- Provide stretch opportunities that align with project needs. Maybe you have a technical specialist who would like more experience in customer outreach or supervision. Use that interest and existing skill base to identify a task that is needed on the project. For example, the team member could coach or mentor another team member in a specific technology, or lead an outreach meeting about a specific part of the project with external stakeholders. This builds on the team member’s existing experience, allows growth into new areas and helps the project.
- Give both positive and corrective feedback. In the speed of a project, project managers don’t always provide developmental feedback. Instead, feedback often focuses on a particular deliverable and what needs to be corrected. Developmental feedback focuses instead on the person. This form of feedback speaks to the issue at hand, but also broadens the feedback to be more generally applicable to the person’s work. For example, perhaps the quality of a report is poor. Instead of giving feedback about the report, explore the root causes that led to the poor quality. That way, you both develop the person, and get a better report next time.
- Network. If you are a full-time project manager, your success and development depends on access to talented individuals both inside and outside your organization. Build a network of people that you can later draw upon — know their interests, skills and possible availability. As you take on new projects, consider who might be ready for the challenge you currently have and explore the possibility of engaging them. Even if it does not work out, your interest will be noticed. Next time, people may approach you — and it may be just the right fit at the right time. Also, keep in touch with the people you have worked with in the past — by tracking their development over time; you can support succession planning throughout the organization.
Career development and project management are not often spoken about in the same breath — however, project managers that take career development seriously can both up their game on projects, and build their bench for the future.