TZL 1469 (web)


Chad Clinehens | Publisher Sara Parkman | Senior Editor & Designer Shirley Che | Contributing Editor

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Published continuously since 1992 by Zweig Group, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. ISSN 1068-1310. Issued weekly (48 issues/year). Free electronic subscription at zweiggroup. com © Copyright 2022, Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

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probably explains a lot of why project managers feel a sense of inner turmoil about having to choose what to work on. Your clients’ preferences are distinctly different than what you feel to be most important about your work. How can we resolve that? PRIORITIZING LEADERSHIP. Effectively leading projects starts with prioritizing project interactions and project communication. Carving out the time and space to prioritize interactions requires interrogating and leaning out your internal project manager to only those items that advance you toward your goals. Here is a simple framework that you can use to take a hard look at your current process and determine if you are prioritizing the right things: 1. What are the most important goals of this phase of the project? † What are our goals? † What are our client’s goals? 2. What are the actions that need to happen to accomplish these goals? 3. What are the specific, purpose-built tools that project managers should use to facilitate those actions? 4. What are the leadership skills that project managers should bring to bear to be successful in achieving these goals at this point? When linked together, it becomes clear that successful project managers use their skills to leverage tools, motivate actions, and accomplish objectives, which is the essence of leadership. Unsurprisingly, in our work with nearly 1,000 project managers over the past two years, project managers rate leadership and communication skill development to be most critical to their continued success and their overall career development. GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT! This presents an incredible opportunity for firm leaders to win big with their people and their clients by prioritizing development of those skills that are best linked to what both your staff and your clients are looking for in AEC providers. It is hard to find a good reason not to. Justin Smith, P.E., is an advisor at Zweig Group specializing in project management and leadership development. He can be reached at

JUSTIN SMITH, from page 1

5. Strong trust builder 6. Verbal communication 7. Strong team builder

8. Conflict resolution and management 9. Critical thinking and problem solving 10. Ability to balance priorities

Most interesting about this list is that the relative importance of the various items are dependent on the project environment. Some items, like risk management, do not appear in the top 10 global inventory, but are most important in a project with high uncertainty. However, leadership, people skills, and communication consistently rank in the top five as most critical to project success, regardless of the circumstances of the project. How do we link this to practice? BRIDGING THE GAP TO PRACTICE. Researchers asked project managers what they thought were the most important elements of their work. This same research also asked clients what, in their view, was the most important work for project managers to focus on when working on their projects.

Project manager self-report Client report 1. Setting clear objectives 1. Planning 2. Reporting 2.

Communication with the client 3. Setting clear objectives

3. Planning

Establishing and maintaining communication with clients and stakeholders

4. Motivating the team 4.

Monitoring and controlling, managing uncertainty (tied)

Monitoring and controlling



In the eyes of clients, two of the five most important elements of any project manager revolve around the their ability to communicate with clients and stakeholders. Conversely, project managers (in this research) do not feel that to be a top five issue. Project managers trade that away for “reporting” and “motivating their team.” These are not unimportant items, but it

IN-HOUSE TRAINING The most effective way to fully leverage Zweig Group’s training programs is to customize them to fit your firm’s needs. Zweig Group offers customized versions of all of our highly acclaimed seminars, built around your people, culture, and needs. Learn more here, or contact Shirley Che at to kick start your in-house training.

© Copyright 2022. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.


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