In the spirit of the holiday season, I found it fitting to come up with a wish list of things that I want from an engagement manager. As a project manager, you are the tactical commander of your project team (and I say “commander” very lightly – it’s a team effort through and through). But if you are the commander, then the Engagement Manager is the General. And as such, there are certain dos and don’ts that an engagement manager should abide by in order to cement a great working relationship with the project team while maintaining their focus on a successful engagement. Here are some of those items
Do Support the Team
The job of the project manager is to ensure that the project team feels supported in what they are doing (or to help guide course corrections when needed). The engagement manager needs to be just as supportive of the team and of the project manager and also needs to provide those course corrections when needed. In the eyes of the team though the engagement manager needs to be just as aligned as the project manager is with strategy and approach to addressing the problems that the customer is paying you to solve. When issues arise (and they will), the engagement manager needs to come at it from a somewhat impartial view however knowing that the team needs to feel someone at their back giving them the support they need to get the job done.
Don’t Exist to Placate the Client
Some engagement managers feel the need to always keep the client happy no matter what the cost. This can lead to a very dangerous place with respect to keeping your project on track. Customers will push to get what they want – a strong engagement manager will know when to push back and when to acquiesce. The easy fallback is to go by the letter of the contract – any reasonable customer will understand this. When the pushes continue to come, nothing is more demoralizing to a team when the engagement manager sides with the customer merely to placate them. Customers who know that they have an engagement manager who will bend to give what they want will leverage that, which will cause more friction with the project team. Engagement managers who stand strong and reasonable will find their project teams will follow suit and do the same.
Don’t Get into the Weeds
Often Engagement Managers are built from individuals who were at some point project managers. This is a very transferrable skill set and it takes a special individual to be able to separate themselves (as the engagement manager) from the day-to-day “weeds” of managing the project. Engagement managers who immerse themselves too deep in the operations of a project will often find conflict with the project manager in how the execution of project management tasks are done, which often defeats the purpose of the engagement manager.
Being an engagement manager is often times more challenging than being the project manager. It’s your job (and ultimately your accountability) to make sure the project goes well in the eyes of the client and of your organization. For a project team to be successful, the engagement manager needs to be in lockstep with them the whole way, seeing the grander vision than even what the project manager is focused on will help bridge the divide between project team and customer.