Our CEO, Natalie Steck, is a confident, capable and well-liked leader. She landed her first leadership position at the tender age of 24, and has learned a ton about persuasion, leadership and communication on her journey to the top of the corporate ladder. We asked her to share some advice for project managers who want to become better leaders. She was only too pleased to oblige!
Here's the transcript of our interview:
Natalie, how did you develop your leadership skills over the course of your career?
I learned the art of persuasion from a very young age, as a child actually, and I worked hard to hone the skill throughout my career. I have also been a lifelong people studier. I f
ound that if you get to know your people and understand them, you will soon work out what they need to be successful. And if you can provide that, you will be a great leader.
I started out in sales roles because people said "you'd be good at it." And I found that I was good at - because I knew how to really listen to what people wanted. By listening I could solve a customer's problem with the solution I was selling.
From there, at around 24 years of age, I was put into my first management role. I had to manage three people who were older than my parents. I thought long and hard about what type of 'manager' I would be and decided I was going to lead with force, taking a "Do as I say and not as I do" kind of approach. What I found was that managers and leaders are not the same thing - and people want to follow leaders.
My 'forceful' approach ended up working for me, but I think that was due to two things: clarity and communication. My team knew exactly what I wanted from them and how to achieve it. If they weren't achieving it, I sat down with them to figure out why. I learned many lessons in that role that I keep with me today, decades later.
2. If you could give a project manager one piece of advice on leadership, what would it be?
3. How do you get people to buy into your vision?
4. What are the biggest motivation killers in a team?
Moving targets. People intrinsically want to be successful but when goals, targets and KPIs change all the time (without sound reasons) then people can feel very demotivated. That, and monotony!
5. How can a project manager motivate people to work on their project when there are so many other competing tasks and responsibilities?
Clarity of expectation can help here. If people can see the tasks they have to complete, and are able to manage the timeline/deadlines, then they are more likely to be motivated to complete them.
It's difficult for a project manager who is already 100% utilized to take on more work, but that often happens due to mis-management of a project. When Project Owners don't have visibility into their resource pool, you often find PMs being over-utilized, so greater visibility and control are needed.