Integrity and the Project Manager

“If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”Mark Twain

I recently came across a post on leadership and integrity by Michal Ray Hopkin, who reminds readers that integrity is one of the top attributes of a great leader. Integrity is the trait of truthfulness, reliability, and uprightness. It is the act of living up to one’s word and delivering on promises made.  It is often demonstrated when people do the right thing for the right reason, regardless of consequence.

Every project manager is a leader in your organization, whether the teams they lead have 5 people or 50 people on them.  Your project managers are representing your organization, as well as the project, to your clients.  So I think it’s useful to ask what integrity means in the project management world?

I recognize that PMI and its PMP certification, now includes ethics in its certification materials. While that is a great thing, I contend that ethics and integrity are very hard to learn or teach.  So while a PMP won’t guarantee that your PM has good integrity, the behaviors he or she demonstrates and the benefits that are associated with integrity can be observed. Here are some of the behaviors I look for when I am seeking integrity:

  1. A PM who tells the truth using simple language, without distorting facts or manipulating people.
  2. A PM who doesn’t try to hide information; in fact, he or she sets up tools and reports that enable him or her to create project transparency—status, schedule, running rate, etc.—without being forced to do so.
  3. A PM who keeps his or her commitments and delivers the results promised; a PM with a track record for delivering results over a number of projects.
  4. A PM who is accountable for the project status and results, who takes responsibility for the end results without pointing fingers at others.  A PM who has this trait is also likely to hold his or her individual team members accountable for results.
  5. A PM who confronts tough issues directly and can discuss the issues honestly, even when people don’t like the answer.

SO….Think integrity is just a soft skill? Think again!  Once you find a project manager with integrity, hang onto them and support them.  Doing so will bring measurable benefits to your organization.  For example, project managers with integrity help your organization build client trust. Clients will quickly discover whether or not the project manager is representing project reality and sharing accurate information, even when it means that tough issues must be addressed.  Another important benefit of having project managers with integrity is the retention and stability of good team members.  People will stay on tough teams when they know that the project manager’s integrity will not be shaken when tough decision need to be made or when something goes wrong. This is especially important on complex projects with significant risk, where it is even more critical to keep the team stable.

(for those of you who are not Project Managers, but manage people, I would suggest that the same or similar behaviors are what you should be aiming for)

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