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Category Archives for Leadership Skills

How to Get the Best from Your Project Team with Situational Leadership

Get the Best from Your Project Team with Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership is a simple and compelling idea. If you want to get the best from someone, choose a leadership style that suits the situation.

I almost don’t need to write any more… Done.

But, if you want more, here it is. You need to assess what the situation is, and you need to pick the correct style from a variety of choices.

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And that’s what this article is all about. I’ll show you what matters most about the situation, and what your choices are.

Your pay-off will be huge.

You’ll have the skills to give people the leadership they will want, need, and value. In turn, this means they will give you the results you will want, need, and value. So, for a project manager, situational leadership is the key to to getting the best for your project, day-to-day.

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Ten Ways to Win Team Commitment on Your Project

Ten Ways to Win Team Commitment on Your Project

If you want to supercharge your project team, your first step is to win their commitment. But although team commitment is easy to define and spot, it is hard to create. Yet the best project leaders seem to do it with ease.

So what are their secrets?

In this article, we reveal all. I’ll list the top ten ways to win team commitment, and secure a supercharged project team, that will:

  • Work hard
  • Collaborate well, and
  • Deliver consistently

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Gravitas: How to be a Project Manager of Substance

Gravitas - How to be a Project Manager of Substance

Gravitas is something every Project Manager should be aiming at. It's the sense of authority, or substance that leads people to trust your judgement and rely on your advice. And, whilst experience, track record and, frankly, gray hairs contribute to your gravitas, there's more to it than that. We've all met people with plenty of all those, yet their words seem to carry little weight with the people around them.

And, likewise, you've probably met people who are still young and relatively inexperienced. Yet, for some reason, you want to trust them. What they say and the way they say it is not just persuasive. No, it's also weighty. It impresses people with the sense that here is someone to listen to and to take seriously.

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Isn't that how a project manager should be?

If you think so, then read on. We have plenty of advice for you.

What is Gravitas?

Gravity is the physical force that gives objects weight.

And the Latin word gravitas comes from the same root. It was one of the Roman virtues and it conveyed a sense of seriousness, dignity, and weighty opinions. It was what people wanted of their politicians, public figures, and generals.

Gravitas - How to be a Project Manager of Substance

Gravitas - How to be a Project Manager of Substance

And we want it just as much today...

Certainly we want it from politicians, public figures, and generals, but we don't always get it. But we also want it from professionals who deliver services and lead the organizations that society depends upon. And among those are you: the Project Manager.

Don't we want a deliberate, insightful, strategic thinker who is serious and dignified?

This doesn't mean you can't use humor, and improvize. But it does mean that the people around you can trust that you know when to have fun, and when to be serious. And that way, they can feel safe in your hands, trust your judgement, and seek out your opinions.

This is a huge asset to you when you want to:

  • Lead and motivate your team
  • Inspire confidence in your boss, client, or sponsor
  • Engage and influence your stakeholders

...and Why does it Matter?

If you are a project manager, or aspire to be one, you may have found yourself thinking something like one of these:

'My manager says that I lack gravitas'

'I want to move my project management career to the next level but people don’t take me seriously'

'I keep being overlooked for bigger projects'

'I get told that I’m too young to take on such a senior role'

'I sometimes feel intimidated by Partners and Clients and don’t speak out when I have something to say'

'As a woman in an industry traditionally dominated by men, I’m seen as lightweight and find it hard to get my contribution heard or acknowledged'

To operate effectively at the senior level, on big projects, you need your colleagues to view you as influential. And to do that, you need to be mindful of what you say, how you say it, and when you make your contributions. But, if you can find a way to carry the confidence of people around you, you are more likely to be a member of (rather than an outsider to) the top team. Having an influential voice among those at the big table needs 'gravitas'.

When gravitas is lacking

When gravitas is lacking, people know it. But, when it's present, they sit up and take notice of you:

People seek her out for her thoughts and advice.'

His ideas always influence the Project Board, especially when there's uncertainty or disagreement.'

When she speaks, people sit up and take notice.'

With gravitas, your leadership moves up a notch... or three. Your contributions at senior levels will create impact. And you will get the attention you are due. Your thoughts will carry weight. When you do it right, gravitas is not a mask or an act. It's a way to ensure you are heard in important discussions.

Your Biggest Business Asset

What makes the very top people in any context stand out?

Is it their wealth, their intellect, their appearance, their energy, their charisma?

I don’t think that it is any of these, although you can certainly find plenty of examples of each. Rather, I think it is something far more fundamental. People at the very top of their domain  - be it business, politics, sport, philanthropy, educations, service, or entertainment – have one thing in common.

We listen to them.

We want to hear what they have to say. And, because of this, we are likely to be influenced by their opinions.

This is, of course, the basis of LinkedIn’s Influencer program. Here is an example of a business giving the top people from many arenas a platform because we want to know what they have to say.

When you get to this position, your words will carry extra weight. The word we use for the characteristic that these people share therefore means weight. It is gravitas.

It seems to me that gravitas acts like a feedback system. We listen to people who have gravitas, and people have gravitas because we listen to them. The trick, therefore, is to start this self-reinforcing process: to acquire some gravitas. Because, without a doubt, being listened to and having others seek out and value your opinions, would be you’re your single biggest business asset.

In this article, I’m going to offer a lot of advice in the form of tips and techniques for how to develop gravitas. But I want to start with the best.

Morgan Freeman's Secret Ingredient

If there is one person who, to me, role models gravitas constantly, it is the actor Morgan Freeman.

In fact, there are few actors who have got to play that most pervasive of characters, god, and none with as much… gravitas. I don’t know what Morgan Freeman is like as a person, but his characters frequently have a depth, a solidity, and a weight that draws us to them. They have gravitas.

So what is Freeman’s secret in creating these characters? He puts it very simply – although you will find it far from easy to do:

Stillness. That’s all and that’s the hardest thing. Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.

Have you noticed how little hurry some people seem to feel? How calm them seem – not agitated, not fidgeting; just patient.

It’s agitation and rush that rob us of our impact, because they betray a lack of confidence.

If you want gravitas, take your time… slow down. And the ultimate expression of slowness is stillness.

The Real Power behind Gravitas

Let’s extend that idea a step further. We recognise gravitas when we encounter a set of attitudes and behaviours that conform to our expectations of authority, credibility and wisdom.

What makes gravitas does depend, to a degree, on the culture and society you live and work in. My expertise is in Western, English-speaking cultures. But there is one thing that I am confident transcends all human cultures.

How Your Speak

If gravitas means not rushing, this applies to your speech, as well as to your movement. A steady, deliberate pace conveys your confidence in what you are saying.

As a bonus, speaking slowly increases your control over your speech and your ability to relax your vocal cords, allowing your voice to express all of its natural resonances. This will allow people to hear the components that are at the bottom end of your tonal register. Deeper tones tend to convey authority.

People who are absolutely confident don’t need to shout, so keep the volume down too. When people choose to strain to catch your important ideas, you know you have got their attention. And, having worked hard to hear you, they wil value what you say to a far higher degree.

The Power of Silence

The ultimate in slowing your speech, the linguistic equivalent of still… is silence.

Yet, this is something few can master. Used at the right time, it can be a devastating contribution to your argument. How much more subtle and understated can your contribution be?

If you don’t have an insight or contribution to make, remember that smart people will always find something smart to say. But Ludwig Wittgenstein was wise when he said:

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.'

Don’t be afraid to not have an opinion or an answer: no insight is better than shallow insight.

But silence has a power all of its own. I constantly advise the people I coach that, in a conversation,

the person who is most comfortable with silence has an advantage: they have control.

You can use silence as a question, as an answer, and as a way to win an argument.

The person who is most comfortable with silence has an advantage: they have control. Click To Tweet

A Question

Have you noticed how desperate most people are to fill a silence in a conversation?

If you ask a question, you’ll get an answer. But if you respond to the answer with silence, you will often get more. Desperate to fill the silence, the other person will say anything to ease their discomfort. Sometimes they will give you a new answer to your question – something buried deeper, and perhaps something they didn’t intend to let out.

An Answer

And silence is a great answer in itself.

We often rush to give our answers to people’s questions, fearing any delay indicates we don’t have a response readily to hand. So clearly, we are poorly informed or a slow thinker. This is wrong. Your quick answer says to me:

My question was easy, the answer was obvious, I’m a fool.

Why would you want to make me feel like a fool?'

Of course, you don’t easily make me feel like a fool. So maybe your quick answer makes me think:

You jumped in, you didn’t think, you don’t care much about my question, you didn’t listen to it’s subtleties, you’re giving me a stock answer, you’re a fool..'

Why would you want to look a fool?

A slow answer, following a silence, on the other hand, says to me:

you paused, you thought about my question, it was a good question and you recognized that, you paid me the respect of thinking afresh about how to answer it, you’re a wise person, I should listen to your answer.'

Why wouldn’t you pause?

An Argument

When you are debating a topic, sometimes a silence is the strongest point you make.

It lets your audience make your point for you. It can say not 'I have nothing to say' but instead 'what you expect me to say is not worth saying'. Silence creates space for listeners to fill in the gaps.

Use silence wisely, and it adds weight to your words.

Silence is the real power behind gravitas. Click To Tweet

How to Develop Gravitas

Now available at OnlinePMCourses: my online video program, 'How to Develop Gravitas'.

This course contains 21 short videos, with over an hour of content. Most of the videos contain a short lecture of under 5 minutes that will introduce you to a simple idea that will help you strengthen your gravitas and authority.

Together, they build into a comprehensive set of techniques that will make you a professional - and a project manager - of substance. You will become someone whom people look to for advice, insight, and guidance.

How to Develop Gravitas

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Three Powerful Tips for Gaining Gravitas

I have already discussed the importance of Stillness and Silence. I’d like to offer you three more techniques to develop gravitas that start with S.


We talk about an aura of gravitas as if it generates a space around you. You can do a lot to create this.

We all have a ‘bubble’ of personal space, that others can detect and will usually respect. When you are with people, imagine your bubble expanding to twice, three times, four times the volume of your normal space, out to the edges of the room. As you visualise this, it will change the subtle cues that your body language gives out to the people around you. You will notice that they will respect a greater distance.

You can also choose to draw people in, by turning down the volume and leaning forward. This will give them a sense of occasion, and underline the extent to which you are in control of the conversation.


I have said nothing so far about the content of what you say. I need to assume that, if you want people to listen to you and value what you say, you have something worthwhile for them to hear. But what is the essential character of what people with gravitas say.

One of the things you will most often hear is synthesis. Many of the people we look to as wise, and who speak with deep authority, are able to see from different perspectives, and understand a broad array of disciplines. They will almost certainly have deep expertise in a narrow field, but this depth does not come at the cost of breadth. Because what they are able to do, is to bring together the understanding from different quarters and create new insights from their combination.

Gravitas demands the ability to learn broadly and form new connections that help move ideas forward.


Another talent that people with gravitas will put on display is their ability to make the complex simple, and the murky clear. They simplify (another S).

Smart people will usually dive in with their ideas to ensure that they are heard. They will have opinions on everything and feel the need to share all of them, as soon as possible. Wiser souls wait, observe, then assess and summarise what they have heard. They bring clarity, informed evaluation and, above all, penetrating insight.

There's more...

How to Develop Gravitas

The topic of professional gravitas is a big one. And there is far more to learn that I can possibly cover - even in this long article. So I have decided to make my online video program, 'How to Develop Gravitas' available through OnlinePMCourses. This course contains 21 short videos, with over an hour of content. Most of the videos contain a short lecture of under 5 minutes that will introduce you to a simple idea that will help you strengthen your gravitas and authority.

Together, they build into a comprehensive set of techniques that will make you a professional - and a project manager - of substance. You will become someone whom people look to for advice, insight, and guidance.

How to Develop Gravitas

Find out More and Get Started Now

LEAD: Your Four Project Leadership Priorities

LEAD - Your Four Project Leadership Priorities

When you are in a Project Leadership role, you will have a lot to do. As well as managing your project day-to-day, you’re responsible for the people. They look to you for leadership and guidance. But, with so many responsibilities, it can be hard to know what are your leadership priorities?

Often, it is the soft skills that are hardest to practice. Yet they regularly make the biggest difference. There is a well-established acronym, listing four vital soft skills. For me, it forms a great checklist and reminder of my leadership priorities. And, in this article, I want to share it with you, with some tips and tricks along the way.

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Managing Difficult Conversations: A Guide for Project Managers

Managing Difficult Conversations | A Guide for Project Managers

From time to time, every Project Manager will find themselves managing difficult conversations. Because it is an important part of our role. But it’s one we’d rather not have. Then, of course, at the end of a hard day or week at work, you leave work. And again, you will have to face these types of conversation at home, with friends and in social situations.

We all know a difficult conversation as soon as it gets started – in fact, we mostly spot it in advance. This triggers adversarial or defensive reactions that just make things worse.

There are ways to plan and manage a difficult conversation to vastly increase the chances that it will go well. You want the other person will listen and participate constructively. You also want a good outcome. So, in this guide, I’ll offer you some practical techniques to give you confidence when you are managing difficult conversations.

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How Coaching Skills will Make You a Better Project Leader

How Coaching Skills will make you a Better Project Leader

Coaching is more than just a flavor-of-the-month management fad. It’s a helpful approach to getting better performance from colleagues, and supporting their long-term professional development.

Coaching is therefore a valuable skill for project leaders. It will help you with day-to-day project delivery, and with developing team members over your whole project lifecycle.

Of all he skills I acquired, which gave me a boost to my project management practice, I’d rate coaching as the single most valuable. It transformed the way i worked with team members. As a result, it also transformed the culture on my projects. We became more effective and, if I’m honest, what I enjoyed the most was the loyalty it inspired.

If you wan these benefits, and more, then read on. Coaching could well have a huge impact on your project management and leadership too.

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The Four Essentials of Project Team Leadership

The Four Essentials of Project Team Leadership

Team Leadership itself is not hard.  What makes it difficult is fitting it in among a load of other project priorities that are facing you. You're under pressure to do this and do that. So, you often default to a combination of doing it yourself, telling people what to do, and getting annoyed with a general lack of progress.

And, if this is your first opportunity to lead a project team, you want to do well. So, these pressures can mount up and suck the energy out of you.

In this article, I want to hone down to the four essentials of project team leadership. None of the fancy stuff. Just the four things that make the biggest difference.

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The Four Essentials of Project Team Leadership

The Four Essentials of Project Team Leadership

You Get the Team You Deserve

Leadership isn't something you are born with, like brown eyes. And it is not something your parents give you like a doll. It is a talent that comes from learning, practicing, and mastering many different skills.

Some people get the opportunity to do this from early in their lives, whilst others need to wait a little longer.

Some people seize every opportunity they get, while others let them pass by.

I believe there is a simple truth about team leadership.
And all project managers need to understand it...

You get the team you deserve Click To Tweet

First and Foremost Team Leadership is about Attitude

'You get the team you deserve' does not mean that the universe will reward good people with a good team.. And punish bad people with a bad team.

If only life were that fair.

Instead, it is about the attitude you take to the people you have. Never confuse rank, position, grade, or status, for leadership. They are very different. Leadership is about who you are, what you do, and how you do it.

Good leadership is about the attitude you take to the people you have.

Let’s face it: few Project Managers are privileged to hand-pick our ideal team. Most often, we get who are allocated to us, and these are the people we must lead. If you take the attitude that this is not the team you wanted, then all is lost.

How to Deserve the Team You Want

On the other hand, if you take the attitude that this is the best team you could have had...

If you invest your time, your energy, and you commitment into helping this team succeed...

Then, perhaps, you'll deserve a great team.

So, what are the essentials to helping your team succeed?

There are four:

  1. The Individual
    Give everyone the attention they need
  2. The Plan
    People will only follow you if they are confident that you know where you are going
  3. The Team
    People need to feel part of something worthwhile
  4. Communication
    Create an environment where your people can succeed

The Four Essentials of Project Team Leadership

The Four Essentials of Project Team Leadership

Focus Your Team Leadership on Individuals

There's no 'I' in Team

That's a pretty old joke, and we know what it means. But it's wrong.

If there is no sense of individuality in your project team, then where is the diversity that gives a team its:

  • Strength in problems solving
  • Robustness in challenge and decision making, or
  • Joy in learning from one another?

Your first priority in project team leadership is to get to know each team member and find out their strengths. It is easy to deprecate people for what they aren't good at. Go beyond this, though.

Value people for what they can offer – rather than deprecating them for what they cannot. Click To Tweet

Invest your time and energy in helping each one to develop and grow as a result of involvement in your project.  There are two dimensions you can stretch people in:

  1. Skills
    The chance to learn new things and to strengthen existing skills towards mastery is intrinsically motivating as well as good for careers and therefore for employers.
  2. Responsibilities
    Opportunities to take and discharge more responsibility grow character and judgement.

To learn more...

Build and Share a Clear Plan

A project team needs to feel confidence in you as a team leader. And, for that, they need a sense of control and certainty. This is what a plan brings.  Without it they can have little confidence in you.

But it is important to involve your team in creating your plan.

You are the project manager. So, it is easy to believe that you have a monopoly on wisdom and foresight, when it comes to planning. You don't.  There are three compelling reasons to involve team members in planning:

  1. Together, you have greater collective wisdom than any one of you alone.
  2. Involving people in the planning process is a recognition of their experience, knowledge and judgement - which is highly motivating.
  3. When team members get involved in planning, they become more committed to the plan. They have a reputational stake in making the plan work.

But what about Agile Projects?

The plan you need, to foster confidence is about making sure your team knows what you expect of them, and the part they have to play. This means that what matters are:

  • a clear goal
  • operational processes
  • certainty about what tomorrow holds

A well-run Agile project can offer all of this, without a traditional plan.

Fostering a Sense of Team Spirit

People want to feel a sense of belonging and a project team is ideally placed to provide that.  So, team leadership can offer three things we value particularly highly at work:

  1. relationships,
  2. recognition and
  3. respect.

Your job is to cultivate a team spirit and the best place to start is with a clear goal.  A shared and compelling purpose is both motivating and unifying.

What you don't need, is complex 'team-building' events. Instead, establish a few simple team traditions, like cakes on Friday or celebrating team successes on a Monday morning. These are the sorts of things that will bring people together and foster the loyalty, mutual regard and collaborative behaviours that will carry you all through easy times and hard.

Communicating Relentlessly... and well.

Nothing stifles enthusiasm more than the feeling of not knowing what is going on, what is expected of me, and what the future holds.

So, a vital part of team leadership is creating effective communication channels. You must take responsibility not just for communicating well yourself, but also for building a culture of good, collaborative team communication among your team members. Done well, this leads to spontaneous collaboration, seamless conflict resolution and real caring between colleagues.

This is important, because if all you do is become a hub of good communication; then you will become a point of weakness for your team. If you aren't there, communication will break down.

If all you do is become a hub of good communication; then you will become a point of weakness for your team. Click To Tweet

Feedback: the Primary Team Leadership Communication Mode

Developing your team members needs constant attention. And the way you can best do this is by offering high quality performance feedback.

Use feedback to constantly balance the levels of support and challenge you offer. And feed your team members with the resources they need, when they need them.

Basic Care and Maintenance

My principle attitude to team leadership is that you are there to take care of your team. Your job is to ensure that they have the resources they need, and also that you remove unwanted heat and contaminants from your team before they stifle enthusiasm and productivity.

It's like your job is to keep your team motivated by acting as a human environmental control mechanism.

This means Showing Courage

Problems build up and, just like the fizzing bombs in Tom and Jerry. And, if you don't tackle them quickly, they will explode in your face.

Not only does this hurt you and the people around you, but avoiding problems looks weak to your team. It creates a climate of 'what next?' fear.  A positive willingness to take on issues rapidly, work the problems, and make decisions will create the confidence in your leadership that motivates followers.

Deserving Your Team

An enthusiastic team will want to work hard for you.

What will you give them in return?

There is no need for elaborate gifts and bonuses: their role in motivation is exaggerated by the people who have become accustomed to them.  Remember that deserving a great team boils down to attitude. Fundamentally, people need to feel valued for their efforts. A three step process works well:

  1. Recognise your team members' contributions
    ...and help them to learn valuable lessons from their experience
  2. Reward their efforts
    ...with something as simple as your praise and thanks
  3. Celebrate their successes recognising them in front of their peers

Here is the most important thing, though.  Do not save all of your feedback, praise, and opportunities to learn from experience to the end of the work.  Build it into the regular cycle of progress checks and support.  This way, you can harvest its benefits throughout the life of your team.

The Essence of Project Team Leadership

People want to follow leaders.

So be the leader whom people want to follow.

Define your own leadership template to build the style that feels right to you and creates the culture that you want. Integrity is not negotiable, but here's what I would also want:

  • enthusiasm and confidence,
  • optimism and flexibility,
  • openness and compassion,
  • challenge and excitement.

To find out how teams form:

What are your Team Leadership Essentials?

What will your leadership watchwords be?

And how hard are you prepared to work to make them a day-to-day reality; even on the toughest of days?

Tell us about what you think are the project team leadership essentials in the comments below. And, we'll look forward to respondng to everything you contribute.

This article is adapted from an extract from How to Manage a great Project (US|UK) by Mike Clayton (Pearson, 2014)

Performance Feedback for Project Team Members: In a Nutshell

Performance Feedback for Project Team Members

As a project manager, you are not just responsible for your project. You are also responsible for the people on your project. And there is nothing that develops people more reliably than good quality performance feedback.

Often, we get our own performance feedback by simply observing what we do and the results it has. But it’s too easy to miss the details. That’s why we need others to give us their feedback. So, you need to develop the skills for giving good performance feedback to your project team members.

In this article, we’ll summarize the skills, techniques, and tips you’ll need.

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How to Delegate | Video

How to Delegate

In last week’s Project Management in Under 5, we answered the question: What is Delegation?

It’s a vital skill for all project managers, so we’ve also created this video, where Mike talks you through the basics of How to Delegate, in under 5 minutes.

So… How to Delegate?

Dr Mike Clayton is founder of
Here, he answers this question, in under 5 minutes.

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What is Delegation? | Video

What is Delegation?

Delegation… If you aren’t doing it, you are wasting a tremendous opportunity as a project manager.

So what is Delegation?

Dr Mike Clayton is founder of
Here, he answers this question, in under 5 minutes.

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