Strengths and Weaknesses

Trajan's Column - Roman Soldiers Building a Fo...

All the successful project managers I have known have had a common thread. They have certain traits that distinguish them from other PMs or other members of the project team.

I decided to hit the keyboard on the subject as I have been talking with perspective employers about the next project. Invariably the question they all ask is what are your strengths? (easy peasy) but you know what is next – what are your weaknesses?

Now I have hire many staff over the years from Project Directors on $2billion projects to site clerks, and I have asked the same questions. The hard part is divorcing the kind of person you want as the employer and deciding on the right person for the project. I have hired people who could be the most difficult, recalcitrant and plain bloody minded but they were right for the job. I have also hired people that I thought at interview were marvelous people, and they were, but you would not put them in charge of a free bar.

Now when I am asked about my strengths I admit that I trot out the normal stuff. I will use one word for each: team, relationships, example, foresight, leadership, tenacious, focussed, driven, professional, experience etc etc. I usually add a few others that satisfied clients have used about some completed projects: the shark, hit-the-ground-running, and my favorite which I was described as by a very influential Arab developer – Mr Wolf

So how to respond to the “Weakness” question. You need to be honest. I have had people become more humble than Uriah Heap and advise them to try social work not project management. I have had some who have no weaknesses (next candidate please). The secret is be prepared for the question as it always gets asked.

But returning to the common thread and PM’s traits there is one weakness that does surface in many of us. That is we take over a team member’s critical tasks sometimes if that person is struggling. Yes as good leaders we know that people make mistakes and we council, train, “mother hen” them. We don’t let them go under. But the response during the interview is usually on the lines:

“some people may see it as a weakness but when a team member is struggling with a critical task I go out of my way to help them achieve the goal they are striving for”

My response is as Mr Wolf “I solve problems”

Give us the resources to do the job

The picture explains what the project managers...
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Construction project managers have similar issues the world over, no matter the size or complexity of the projects they manage – resources. The way it should work is a budget is given to the PM to manage, he is responsible so let him get on with it.

But in many companies project teams are invariably understaffed, under funded, and micro managed by head office bean counters.

For example, the chief accountant discovers coloured photocopies discarded by the photocopier shared by 30 staff and is apoplectic with rage. “These cost 18 cents each, use black and white only” he screams, but when asked to get an IT person in to change the default network setting it just never happens. The change setting is simple but it is the levels of security to go through that are the issue. We cannot have project managers who deliver multi million dollar buildings changing print settings, that spells the end of civilization as we know it.

Thousands of dollars are spent on document management systems, we move to cloud storage, and expect our concrete subcontractor to not only download and print the drawings, but to join the project electronic communication merry go round. But ask for a part time document controller and you are sure to be disappointed. Then someone has the shear temerity to point out that with electronic issuing of drawings nobody is actually reviewing the drawing changes. Thousands of dollars of design changes are being left unclaimed. Who is responsible, yes the project manager, but if they had the resources…………………