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PMP Leadership Styles


PMP Leadership StylesPMP Leadership Styles

Project management is heavily dependent on managing people. Therefore, the project manager must determine the most appropriate leadership style for the needs of the project and for whatever part of the project they are in. Some of the choices are:

  • Directing Telling others what to do
  • Facilitating Coordinating the input of others
  • Coaching Instructing others
  • Supporting Providing assistance along the way
  • Autocratic Making decisions without input
  • Consultative Inviting ideas from others
  • Consensus Problem solving in a group with decision-making based on group agreement

Studies disagree on which styles should be used during the various parts of the project management process. However, there is a general consensus that a project manager needs to provide more direction at the beginning of the project (only he knows what must be done to plan the project).

During project executing, the project manager needs to do more coaching, facilitating and supporting. Carefully read any such questions.

Watch out for consensus. Many project managers believe that all decisions need to be made with the project team. This is not the case. During project executing, a project manager should have enough information about the project to make many decisions on his own. The first or best choice when a problem or issue arises may not be to call a meeting of the team.

PMP Leadership Skills – Conflict Management 

Do you remember that most of the questions on the exam are situational? Many of those situations are conflicts. To pick the best choice from many “right” answers, one might need to understand the different conflict resolution techniques and which one is best.

Is conflict bad? Should we spend time preventing the root causes of conflict? Who should solve the conflict?

Try to answer the questions just posed. Get them right and you are likely to do well on this section. The answers are no, yes, and those that have the conflict. This may need to involve the project manager.

Although many of us think conflict is bad, it actually presents opportunities for improvement. This is another situation where the understanding of many project managers differs from accepted research. Make sure your basic thinking is on the new side and not the old.

Conflict is unavoidable because of the:

  • Nature of projects trying to address the needs and requirements of many stakeholders
  • Limited power of the project manager
  • Necessity of obtaining resources from functional managers

Conflict can be avoided through the following techniques:

Informing the team of:

  • Exactly where the project is headed
  • Project constraints and objectives
  • The contents of the project charter
  • All key decisions
  • Changes
  • Clearly assigning work without ambiguity or overlapping responsibilities
  • Making work assignments interesting and challenging

Note what was just said: some conflict can be avoided. Do you do the things listed above? Did you ever realize that the project manager is professionally responsible to do such things? They are not optional, they are good project management.

Many project managers think that the main source of conflict on a project is personality differences. They may be surprised to learn that this is rarely the case. It only becomes personal if the root cause of the problem is not resolved. The following describes the seven sources of conflict in order of frequency.

Memorize the top four and remember that personality is last.

  • Schedules
  • Project priorities
  • Resources
  • Technical opinions
  • Administrative procedures
  • Cost
  • Personality

Conflict is best resolved by those involved in the conflict. The project manager should generally try to resolve problems and conflict as long as he or she has authority over those in conflict or the issues in conflict. If not, the sponsor or functional managers may be called in to assist.

There is one exception. In instances of professional and social responsibility (breaking laws, policies, ethics) the project manager must go over the head of the person in conflict.

When you have questions on the exam relating to this topic, make sure you first think, “Who generally has authority over the situation described in this question?” Another good phrase to remember is, “What resolution of this problem would best serve the customer’s interests?”

Remember to look for confronting or problem solving choices as generally the best answers, and forcing as the worst, but realize that the answer depends on the situation described. There could be situations described where withdrawal is the best option.

The following are the main conflict resolution techniques you will need to know for the exam.

Make sure you notice that some have more than one title and know both:

  • Confronting (Problem Solving) First, did you notice that this has two names? Did you realize that both names mean the same thing? Confronting means solving the real problem so that the problem goes away. Confronting leads to a win-win situation
  • Compromising Finding solutions that bring some degree of satisfaction to both parties. This is a lose-lose situation since no party gets everything. Did you know that compromise is not the best choice, but rather second to confronting?
  • Withdrawal (Avoidance) Retreating or postponing a decision on a problem. Dealing with problems is a PMI-ism, therefore withdrawal is not usually the BEST choice for resolving conflict
  • Smoothing Emphasizing agreement rather than differences of opinion
  • Forcing Pushing one viewpoint at the expense of another.

PMP Leadership – Problem Solving

Even though a project manager spends a great deal of time and energy preventing problems, there are still problems that need to be resolved. You should expect more than 100 questions (yes, that was 100 questions) that require you to solve a cost, time, human resource or other problem.

You must have knowledge and understanding of the contents of this entire course to answer problem solving questions correctly. Here is another trick. When you get to one of these questions, ask yourself, “What is the real problem behind the situation presented?”

This can be extremely important to passing the exam! Did you realize that many people solve the wrong problem in the real world and on the exam? How about this situation:

During the executing process group, a project manager discovers that the seller did not supply the report required by the contract for the last four weeks. What should he do?  What would you do?

Did you know that many people choose to investigate why the report was not supplied, when the real problem is that the seller has breached the contract and must be notified, in writing, of the error?

See how hard it can be to find the “real” problem and solve it? If you get many questions wrong in practice exams in any section of this book or on PM FASTrack®, one of the things you should ask yourself is, “Am I trying to solve the real problem?”

Make sure you understand the process of solving problems as outlined below. This process may also be used with stakeholders to find a fair resolution to conflicting needs:

  • Define the cause of the problem, not just the symptoms of the problem
  • Analyze the problem
  • Identify solutions
  • Implement a decision
  • Review the decision and confirm that the decision solved the problem

Expectancy Theory. Employees who believe their efforts will lead to effective performance and who expect to be rewarded for their accomplishments remain productive as rewards meet their expectations.

Arbitration. The hearing and resolution of a dispute performed by a neutral party.

Perquisites. (perks) The giving of special rewards to some employees, such as assigned parking spaces, corner offices and executive dining.

Fringe Benefits. The “standard” benefits formally given to all employees, such as education benefits, insurance and profit sharing.

Motivation Theory

Were you going to skim through this topic? Caught you! If most projects are operated in a matrix environment, then one of the few things a project manager can do to gain cooperation of team members is to understand how to motivate them. This section provides answers.

Why would this be on the exam? As you have just seen, the best way to gain cooperation is to give rewards.

How can we reward people if we do not understand what motivates them?

Questions on the exam in this area do not always directly quote motivation theorists. The questions simply describe situations and ask you what to do. The answer might depend on understanding that the person in the situation is a theory X manager, or that the project manager was motivating people in the wrong way.

Take this section seriously and look for practice questions that bear out what I just said. Once you understand these concepts, questions should be easier. Here are three theories you need to understand for the exam.

McGregor’s Theory of X and Y McGregor believed that all workers fit into one of two groups, X and Y. The exam uses many different ways to describe each of these theories. It can be confusing to determine which answer is the correct or even what the choices are saying.

Theory X.

Managers who accept this theory believe that people need to be watched every minute. People are incapable, avoid responsibility and avoid work whenever possible.

Theory Y.

Managers who accept this theory believe that people are willing to work without supervision, and want to achieve. People can direct their own efforts.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s message is that people do not work for security or money. They work to contribute and to use their skills. Maslow calls this “self-actualization.”

He created a pyramid to show how people are motivated and said that one cannot ascend to the next level until the levels below are fulfilled.

Herzberg’s Theory

This theory deals with hygiene factors and motivating agents.

Hygiene Factors Poor hygiene factors may destroy motivation, but improving them, under most circumstances, will not improve motivation. Hygiene factors are not sufficient to motivate people.

Examples of these are:

  • Working conditions
  • Salary
  • Personal life
  • Relationships at work
  • Security
  • Status

Motivating Agents

What motivates people is the work itself, including such things as:

  • Responsibility
  • Self-actualization
  • Professional growth
  • Recognition

The lesson to project managers—motivating people is best done by rewarding them and letting them grow. Giving raises does not do it. Many project managers initially disagree with this statement until they have a chance to think about it. Besides, the project manager may not have any influence over pay raises if the team members do not report to the project manager in the organizational structure.