There is not exactly a debate raging about the relative merits of female vs male project managers but it would be worth all project managers becoming aware of traditionally gender specific traits that can aid their success in project management. Clearly those traits considered to be typically gender specific can occur in the “opposite” sex i.e. a female can be a competitive risk-taker and a man can be a good communicator and motivator. Indeed these traits are perhaps best described as simply personality traits rather than gender traits.
But however you describe them, certain personal traits can contribute to the success of a project manager and other traits can hamper the effective management of a team and project. So even though project managers can be successful whatever their gender, cultivating certain personal traits and moderating others can lead to greater success in project management.
But what are these different personal traits that can have such an impact?
The desire for females to talk has developed as an evolutionary mechanism to maintain a harmonious community according to John Locke in his book Duels and Duets. His study found men and women communicate very differently with women communicating in a more personal and informal way that encourages bonding.
Talking and listening to team members informally throughout a project enables concerns and potential problems to be raised more easily by the team and for the project manager to become aware of an issue before it is reported through more formal channels.
However, in the wider project it is also necessary to be able to communicate authoritatively outside the team, to convince others of the business benefits of a project and to keep focus on those benefits.
Taking the time to understand team members; to praise when praise is deserved and criticise constructively, can go a long way towards building motivated teams; and motivated teams that are prepared to be flexible and adapt to change are more likely to deliver a successful end product.
Other team building skills required for project success are the ability to encourage individuals to work collaboratively as a team and the ability to defuse conflict. But a certain amount of individual competition within a project team can create an optimistic, can-do attitude that can overcome problems easily. So encouraging individuals to achieve their personal best whilst working collaboratively with others can help to build a team that expects to be, and so usually is, successful.
The ability to combine an organised and logical approach to a project with an element of creativity will encourage innovation, which is often the determining factor between a project that meets expectations and one that exceeds them. So if you are aiming for the very best end result encourage free-thinking and creativity in a team, obviously, within some well-communicated boundaries.
Scrapping the Blame Culture
Projects that have hit a problem have two possible routes – everyone pulls together to surmount the problem and moves on to a successful conclusion or pride gets in the way and different individuals or teams start to blame each other for the problem leading to certain project failure. It is not usually the problem itself that causes the project to fail but the inability to accept something has gone wrong and move on – the ability to do this is a crucial skill for a project manager.
Valuing a Challenge
Successful project managers of either gender value a challenge, which is a vital skill when you consider the complex and demanding environments encountered in many projects. All businesses are competitive and a project manager needs to be too in order to deliver on the business expectations. So the desire and ability to challenge existing practices in a constructive way and refusing to accept defeat can bring great rewards.
Taking Calculated Risks
A natural risk taker will deal with risks more effectively and is also more likely to deliver a project that exceeds expectations by taking calculated risks. This approach will often lead to projects going over budget and/or failing to meet a deadline but by delivering beyond expectations the advantages can outweigh the additional costs of the project. Research by Project Management Perspectives in 2007 showed that female project manages were more likely to adhere to budget and time but male project managers delivered projects with greater business benefits because of their risk-taking attitude.
The same report showed that female project managers abandoned fewer projects and that their projects were equally or more difficult, based on resource effort required.
Obviously, a project manager can be successful irrespective of gender and that success can also be attributed to the right project management qualifications and experience but innate or cultivated personal traits can also be a major factor in that success.
If a project manager can combine the typically male traits of being authoritative, decisive and risk inclined with more typically female traits of effective communication, working collaboratively and better time and budget controls then they might just be the perfect project manager.
Why not share your thoughts about what personality traits you believe are essential for a project manager.