Holding the energy isn’t a phrase used much in the industry. You won’t step on many sites—yet—where it’s being spoken about. Yet it may be one of the most quintessential aspects of becoming a highly regarded project manager.
If you’re holding the energy as a project manager, it doesn’t mean everything is running smoothly on your project. It means people are able to rely on you when things go bad, and not get stressed or worked up because they think, ‘it’s okay, he’s on the job’.
It means that no matter what happens on a project your team is glued together by the confidence that they have in you to shoulder responsibility. Holding the energy is that unseen strength of being a leader. So it’s not the architect’s role to rally the consultant team and builder to resolve an issue. It’s always the Project Manager. The emphasis is on who you are as a leader and how you choose to lead.
Another way to look at it is—no matter how challenging the situation—all team members subconsciously know that you are a strong enough leader to guide the project to safe passage. It’s about demonstrating leadership qualities and building trust and respect so doubt and indecision doesn’t creep in.
That’s the importance of it. Good news: you don’t have to be a mindset master to do it well. My top seven ways to hold the energy on a project are:
1. Being fully across the details of the project. As I share with all our team members, the first rule of project management is to get across the details. You must read and understand the contracts, approvals and design documentation. This is fundamental. Not leaving anything to chance lets everyone know you value your work, the team and the eventual outcome.
2. Owning your position as project manager. It’s a concept that’s not fully understood by many project managers—the absolute acknowledgement of your responsibility and the importance of your role on the project team. You can’t lead a team without acknowledging that the primary role of the project manager is to lead and set the example.
3. Knowing when and how to stand firm. It’s important not to sweat the small stuff but more important still to know when and how to stand firm. By their nature all projects are made up of multiple stakeholders with different viewpoints. How many times have you sat in a meeting room that has everyone divided in their opinion or way forward? A project manager who stands firm must understand the dynamics of the team, the technical details of advice being given and then be strong enough to lead the team forward in the right direction. Standing firm doesn’t mean shouting—there’s an art to it. To nail it you really have to understand the emotional dynamic of your team, not just the technical details of the project.
4. Decision Making. The barometer for the right direction is always centred around alignment with the project vision, purpose and company values. But sometimes the more clarity you have on your vision, purpose and values, the greater the responsibility is to stay true and stand firm to these no matter what the circumstances. That’s a real strength which people will acknowledge and respond to.
5. Consideration and getting buy-in from your team. All team members need to know that you will hear them out and consider their viewpoint. Psychologically, people are okay if you disagree with them, but first they want to know that you respectfully listened and considered their viewpoint. It’s when people are not heard or given due consideration that you’ll have problems.
6. High emotional intelligence in stressful situations. It’s no secret our industry creates highly stressful situations that often result in high levels of angst and emotions. The test of the project manager is not to get caught in the heat of the moment. A project manager who holds their energy must have the resources and skill set to remain grounded and level headed even in the most challenging situations. If you fall to pieces, people won’t trust you in future when challenging situations arise. When you hold it together, they will.
7. Caring. Why should your team care if you don’t? The key here is to model by example with high levels of emotional intelligence: “I’ll do what I need to do, but I care about you as an individual. I want to understand your view and I’ll consider it and we’ll move forward with everyone’s buy in.” If you’re aligned with your values, purpose and vision and care about what people have to contribute, that’s going to be given back to you as the team’s enthusiasm and passion. Barking orders won’t set the standard that says you care. Give them an energy they want to match because it increases the vibration of conversations, which opens the gateway for resolution and creativity.