The Accidental Project Manager

Imagine this scenario: You have been part of a project team for a long time and your group is successfully delivering the project and your client has nothing to complain about. Then of all a sudden, your project manager just resigned and since you are the only person who knows the project well, you have been picked by your boss to lead the team. Should you accept or not?

Oftentimes, most companies opt to get the successor of the PM within the project team so as the transition of project management will not disrupt the project delivery. Rather than hiring a new guy who still needs to be oriented and be trained, the boss selects one of the team members who is knowledgeable and capable enough to run the project for them. This saves the company time and of course, money.

However, the “chosen one”, albeit the management deemed to be suited to takeover the rein of leadership experience a great deal of coping with the transition of being a team member and being the manager. For one, the responsibility has become enormous. When you have been used to delivering a particular scope of the project before, it is not easy to adjust to be the man responsible for delivering the project as a whole, i.e., the responsibility has now become end-to-end. You are now become responsible for the welfare of your team, to address the issues and directly answers to your boss and your client. You will be the person to deliver the final decision on critical concerns. In short, you manage everything- the project, the expectation, the manpower, the budget, the delivery of the revenue, etc.

The enormity of the responsibility has become the prevalent issues of the “accidental” project managers. This is primarily the cause why they succumb to the stress of the work and lost their focus and drive to work. Here are some pointers if ever you find yourself in this situation:

1. Be honest with yourself. Being nominated to manage a team is certainly a form of recognition in itself. In a way, your boss acknowledges your potential as an employee and is giving you a break to grow your career. However, you still need to weigh the consequences before you grab this opportunity. If after your self-assessment you feel that you are not ready yet to replace somebody else’s big shoes, tell your boss directly and be specific with your reasons why you cannot take it. You can also recommend someone else whom you think can do the job and offer to assist in the transition.

2. Set your goals and expectations. If you are up for the challenge of expanding your career horizon, set a meeting with your boss to discuss both of your expectations and goals. In this way, you will know what is expected of you in terms of your new job. Conversely, do not shy away from discussing your expectations with your boss before accepting the job offer. Let’s face it. Oftentimes we are avoiding discussions of compensations, benefits and salaries with your boss. If you are going to accept a bigger job, this is a good time to inquire about compensation adjustments.

3. Work with the team. Being the person-in-charge involves a lot of pressures and most of the times decisions need to be done fast. Admittedly, there are things which you are not yet expert of and you may find yourself at the dead end of decision-making. This is where your team comes in. When you involve the team in every process, chances are, they may share valuable expertise to you which cuts the difficulty of your work into half. Be enthusiastic and open-minded with team suggestions and encourage each team member to contribute ideas. Leadership is not about commanding the team but steering them to the direction which may bring the best of every members.

4. Find a mentor. Being an accidental project manager is not an easy task so you need to find someone who can guide you to the process of getting into the flow of the job. This is where mentorship comes in. Choose a person whom you share leadership ideas and learn from them. Discuss with them your difficulties and ask for valuable advice. Work with you mentor to develop several strategies that you may use in your project. Int this way, you may lessen difficulties in adjusting to your new role.

5. Cultivate your network. Working on a project gives you the opportunity to develop your own network which may help you in your project delivery. Develop a strong relationship with your clients and your colleagues and grow your professional network. These will be the people who can also help you grow your career in the future.

It takes a lot of guts to accept challenging roles. However, knowing the right tool and cultivating the right attitude are the best way to start to grow your career. So do not be afraid to expand your horizons. In this way, you gain more experience, more expertise and more wisdom which will help you achieve your professional goals.