An unfortunate analogy that can be made of project managers is that in many respects they are like worrying parents. They invest a significant amount of effort, credibility and emotion into the nurturing of their projects, so anything that is likely to impact the success of their “offspring” is going to affect them in a very similar fashion.
There is a broad range to this type of behavior – some parents (usually those who have more than one child) are mature enough to monitor things from a distance but to also be prepared to act if required whereas others micro-manage their kids lives to the point of almost smothering them in bubble wrap! The same can be said about project managers – some trust their team members and stakeholders to be professional enough to come to them proactively when concerns are identified, whereas others won’t be comfortable if they are not constantly “touching base” to make sure all is well. This behavior extends beyond risk and issue management to quality – just as some parents have the need to mold and hammer their children to fit the parents’ vision of how they should turn out, some project managers exhibit the irresistible urge to constantly tweak or tune deliverables, frequently alienating their teams in the process.
While such behavior is detrimental to healthy team development and the perceptions created can linger well beyond the lifetime of an individual project, it is also not conducive to a good work-life balance. Project managers who demonstrate the compelling need to stay on top of absolutely everything and to worry past the point of reason can end up neglecting spending quality time with their families or their own professional development. When challenged about their lack of attention to these critical activities they will rarely indicate that they felt they could have taken an alternative course of action.
Should a project manager be vigilant and take ownership for getting actions, issues & risks addressed – absolutely, if not, they will likely satisfy one or more of Neal Whitten’s ten signs of “too soft” project management behavior! However a project manager also must recognize the limits of their ability to positively influence project outcomes – in spite of these efforts, the project may still suffer for reasons outside of their control. This is where that critical but elusive project management competency of judgment is required to help them accept the things they cannot change, draw on courage to change the things they can and have the wisdom to know the difference.