Question: I have been a Project Manager for about five years and have successfully been leading dotted line resources and meeting my project deadlines. How do I make the jump from project management to people management?
Response: My thought is that since you have been managing dotted line resources successfully, then chances are you already have the leadership skills and ability to oversee employees from an IT management perspective. The reason I feel comfortable making such a bold statement about someone I have never met is because as a project manager with dotted-line resources, you must have the ability to lead without authority. If you can effectively lead and motivate people without the official authority to do so, then logic would dictate that you certainly could be equally successful as their administrative leader (solid-line manager) also.
Project management is a great training and proving ground for future IT leaders, because as a Project Manager you must:
- Lead your team toward a common goal
- Manage project schedules, budgets, deadlines, and deliverables
- Oversee and motivate a multi-disciplinary team (ex. business analysts, programmers, testers, trainers)
- Write status reports
- Provide team member coaching, mentoring, and career advice
- Write end-of-project employee performance reviews
All of the items in the above list are activities that you will ultimately be performing as an IT manager. The trick for you now is to continue gaining experience at the above types of tasks while simultaneously using these activities as a showcase for your management abilities.
Your next step is to begin positioning yourself for a manager’s role doing one or more of the following:
1. Ask your Manager
If you feel comfortable doing so, ask your manager what things you should do to move toward a management position. A discussion of this type with your manager has two very real advantages. First, and most obvious, your manager knows your strengths and weaknesses and can help you develop a specific action plan on how to move forward. Second, asking your manager this question is a polite and effective way of informing him/her about your future career aspirations.
2. Begin Thinking Like a Manager
As a Project Manager, your mental thought, rightly so, tends to be very focused on project activities and deliverables. As your time and mental energy allows, try to think of things from your boss’s perspective. This change in headset allows you to gain a wider perspective of the non-project related activities going on within your organization. This would allow you to converse with your manager and others on more general IT and business related topics, illustrating both your interest and knowledge in a wider range of IT organizational topics.
3. Volunteer for Cross-Department IT Committees
Knowing that you may already feel like you have too many meetings on your calendar, this suggestion may seem painful. However, it provides you with four strategic advantages. First, it allows you to expand your internal IT contacts, some of which may be in a position to promote you into a management role. Second, it shows that you are a team player and willing to take on additional responsibilities for the good of the organization. Third, depending on the committee’s responsibility, it could provide you with great additional content for your resume. Lastly, it can help widen your knowledge of IT in general, which in turn, moves you yet closer to a future IT management role.
At a conceptual level, the suggestions provided here are designed to enhance your knowledge, widen your understanding of IT, increase your number of internal contacts, and get others to begin thinking of you as a potential future manager. My final suggestion to you is to opportunistically look for other activities that can help you move forward in any of these career enhancing areas.