Relationship vs. Task Oriented Management
By Thomas Cutting
Within project management there are two main types of personalities: Relationship oriented and Task oriented. It is fairly easy to tell the two apart. Aside from having a detailed project schedule, the Task oriented manager has a separate list of things they need to accomplish today and they feel great when all of them are checked off. The Relationship oriented manager’s schedule is really a guideline and they are more likely to have a list of people to call today.
Relationship Oriented managers are great at building a cohesive team. When planning out projects they take in the big picture and appoint people or groups to handle the details. Consensus is a major tool in their arsenal. One of the first artifacts they put together is an org chart and inevitably there is a spreadsheet with contact information posted close at hand. It probably even has birth dates written in. They make their teams feel comfortable. Deadlines are important but don’t seem to get in the way of progress. A good day for a Relationship oriented manager includes resolving conflict and holding productive meetings.
Task Oriented managers are good at directing people and moving the project forward step by step. On any give day they can tell you the status of each subproject, confirm if the project is on schedule, brief you on the budget and give you a graph of the progress. They know their team’s strengths and weaknesses but might not be able to remember last names. A productive day for a Task oriented manager probably doesn’t include too many meetings but does involve completing multiple things.
If you find yourself on either extreme you aren’t alone. Frankly, both types of project managers can be quite effective. Rather than telling you to be more like your opposite, I would like to encourage you to play to your strengths. You aren’t going to be able to change your stripes, so don’t kill yourself trying. Instead, invest in Personality Offsets.
Much talk has been made about using “carbon offsets” to pay for your global warming sins. Faulty as that logic may be, you can use “personality offsets” to keep the project warming to a minimal. Find someone on your team that can balance your weak areas. If tracking the project is not your thing, get a coordinator to handle the schedule. If your focus is “getting-to-done,” put someone in charge of handling the touchy/feely aspects of the team.
This is not a free license to ignore your counter character traits. Give your “offset” the responsibility to tell you when to switch gears and take the appropriate actions. For the Relationship oriented this includes focusing on budget and schedule issues; discussing certain topics in meetings; and making decisive decisions when necessary. Task oriented managers need to be reminded to “socialize” certain ideas instead of dictating them; to recognize the efforts of team members; and to spend more time interacting with the team.
Your personality has successfully gotten you to where you are. Don’t abandon it, balance it.
Thomas Cutting, PMP is the owner of Cutting’s Edge (http://www.cuttingsedge.com/) and is a speaker, writer, trainer and mentor. He offers nearly random Project Management insights from a very diverse background that covers entertainment, retail, insurance, banking, healthcare and automotive verticals. He delivers real world, practical lessons learned with a twist of humor. Thomas has spoken at PMI and PSQT Conferences and is a regular contributor to several Project Management sites. He has a blog at (http://cuttingsedgepm.blogspot.com).