Project Manager: Leader, Mentor, Facilitator

Introduction

There are many aspects a person should take into consideration as soon as the decision to become a project manager is taken. Any project manager should understand a list of business principles and make sure all kinds of work meet the ethical and professional backgrounds (Kerzner, 2013). However, one of the most difficult points in the work of a project manager is the readiness to perform several roles at a high level to meet the deadlines, budget, and expectations of various stakeholders. A project manager should comprehend the differences of being a leader, manager, facilitator, and mentor in a project and choose the one that is required for the project. The current paper focuses on the differences between these roles and explains how project management and functional management can be improved in case the role of a project manager is properly chosen.

Project Management and Managers

To succeed in project management means to comprehend the essence of each role a project manager should perform. On the one hand, it is necessary to realize that all these roles differ from each other and make people act and think in different ways. On the other hand, it is very important not to think about these roles separately because all of them are usually fulfilled in the same project just under different circumstances (Flannes & Levin, 2005). Heldman (2011) identifies project managers as multitalented folks because of the necessity to master several skills for managing a project. As soon as the role of the project manager is identified, it is necessary to know what kind of actions and decisions are expected from a project manager. The following explanation of the roles should help project managers realize their place in and importance to a project.

Project Manager as a Leader

The peculiar feature of a project manager as a leader is the ability to explain the reasons for why something is done and what is expected to be achieved. It is not enough for leaders to enumerate the tasks or follow the way of how the work is completed. It is more important to provide employees with explanations, motivation, and even willingness to work. As a rule, managers as leaders should identify and describe the visions according to which employees should learn how to start working and perform their functions (Flannes & Levin, 2005). As a rule, this role is crucial at the beginning of a project to motivate employees and explain why the work should be done.

Project Manager as a Manager

Any project should have an administrative system by which people should organize their work and understand the main expectations. As a rule, project managers, who perform the role of managers, should take care of the development of a successful administrative system and rely on various human, material, tangible and intangible resources (Flannes & Levin, 2005). A good manager should observe the whole situation under which a project can be developed and make suggestions considering the aims of the project and the abilities of the employees. During the working process, a project manager should explain what can be done to succeed.

Project Manager as a Facilitator

Project managers, who aim at facilitating the work that should be done within the frames of a particular project, are also called project facilitators. This role is rather delicate because it can be confused with managing or mentoring. A project facilitator does not work directly with employees. The main task is to observe an overall picture of a project and demonstrate behaviors that can be used to perform the required portion of work at a high level (Flannes & Levin, 2005). Project facilitators should be good listeners, observant, and evaluators to understand what kinds of actions and thoughts can be applied to a particular situation. The provision of choices and the best options are the points that have to be considered when facilitation is necessary.

Project Manager as a Mentor

Many ways can be used to improve the project. The choice of a good mentor is probably the easiest and the most accessible method. Besides, a project manager can become a mentor, who can help other employees with a variety of tasks that should be done. To be a mentor means to share personal experience and teach people, who need some explanations and suggestions. It is not enough to give some pieces of advice and analyze a particular situation. A project mentor should be involved in a project directly and indirectly. On the one hand, it is important to observe and analyze situations and give appropriate pieces of advice. On the other hand, it is necessary to participate in a process and rely on past experiences to understand what and why should be done. A mentor should become a model to follow, a source of inspiration and motivation, and support that can be used anytime. Honestly speaking, it seems that a project mentor is successful when he/she can combine the functions of a leader, manager, and facilitator at the same time in the most appropriate way.

The following table should help to realize the essence of each role and choose the one that is more suitable for a particular project.

Leader Manager Facilitator Mentor
What to expect Vision Administrative system Answers Vision + system + answers
Qualities Interactive communication Organizational techniques Information exchange Communication + organization + analysis
Work Motivate Monitor Resolve conflicts Share experience
Question to answer WHY? WHAT? HOW? WHY? WHAT? HOW? etc.

Project vs. Functional Management

In addition to the differences between the roles of project managers, it is also necessary to comprehend the difference between project management and functional management. Functional management is the process that aims at managing people, identifying their skills, and evaluating the available resources. Functional management is about the way of how different goals should be met and how human skills should be used. Project management aims at explaining the ways of how people should work together. As a rule, the project is a combination of different functions, abilities, and knowledge. Project management is about the experience that should be shared and gained in the process of work. As a rule, it is expected that functional and project managers try to cooperate to choose the best options, resources, and knowledge and succeed in work.

Despite the differences that exist between functional and project managers, if some mistake is made or poor achievements are observed, both managers take responsibility for any kind of misunderstanding. That is why the cooperation between these two types of management cannot be ignored.

Project Manager in a Personal Project

The execution of different project managers’ roles in the project that has been discussed (the production of T-shirts with the “Senior 2016” label) has to be done to explain the worth of each role. For example, the project manager as a leader can provide the team with the required explanations of why it is necessary to produce T-shirts. As soon as the team is motivated and inspired, it is easier to plan the work. Project managers can observe the changes and effects of the work and explain what should be done to achieve better results. Project facilitators can help to forecast and overcome the conflicts that can become an obstacle. The initial steps are not easy. The team may face misunderstandings and challenges. A facilitator provides ideas on how to improve the situation. Finally, a project mentor can help to analyze the whole project and explain if there is something that can be done to promote changes. Still, as the current project is the first attempt to develop a new apparel line, it is impossible to use a project manager as a mentor. It is better to focus on such roles as facilitators and leaders to know the importance of the chosen work.

Conclusion

In general, each role is crucial in the project and functional manager. It is not an easy task to make the right choice and not to make a mistake. However, the possibility to learn more about project managers as leaders, mentors, facilitators, or simple managers should be used to clarify the goals that should be achieved and to understand the actions that should be taken and the decisions that should be made.

References

Flannes, S. & Levin, G. (2005). Essential people skills for project managers. Vienna, VA: Management Concepts.

Heldman, K. (2011). Project management jumpstart. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Kerzner, H. (2013). Project management: a systems approach to planning, scheduling, and controlling. New York City, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.