Is a project manager a manager

Differences between project managers and project managers: Pay attention!

  • "I understand that your project is important, but I have no more time resources at all!"

  • "Please send your boss if you want something from our department!"

  • "Now don't exaggerate, you're only a project manager here in the team and you can't just give orders. There are still differences!"

Anyone who takes on the role of project manager will sooner or later experience resistance, defensive attitudes and conflicts of this kind.

And anyone who has been planning, organizing and controlling projects for a long time knows that a motivated atmosphere in the team and an exciting task alone are not enough.

Because only if the respective project task also receives the indispensable and clear support of the superordinate technical supervisor, it can ultimately be successfully processed and brought to a conclusion.




Differentiation: project leader and project manager

Differentiate precisely

Basically it is the case that in the English-speaking world only the term "project manager" is used. In contrast, in the German-speaking area, for example, a distinction is made between

  • Project manager (all m / f),

  • Project manager,

  • Project coordinator,

  • Project part owner and

  • Project staff.

In many job advertisements, in day-to-day operations and in general language usage, the positions of project manager and project manager are far too often not differentiated, but simply equated.

Who is really in charge?

This is particularly problematic when applying for positions with project work and should therefore be thoroughly questioned and clarified as precisely as possible in job interviews for demanding project tasks.

Before taking on a new job as a project manager, project manager or project coordinator, you should clarify how these central aspects are linked to the management function:

  • Formal authority,

  • Budget responsibility,

  • Responsibility for team composition,

  • Authority to issue instructions in the event of a conflict.




Project manager: more responsibility

Basically, the "real" project manager has leadership skills based on his role. The "real" project manager, on the other hand, is primarily entrusted with coordinating, controlling, organizing and executing, ie with "managing" purely operationally.

Definition of project manager: In the theory of project management it is therefore emphasized that "real" project managers

  • the management responsibility,

  • the personnel responsibility,

  • a say in team composition and

  • budget responsibility

to have. Project managers, on the other hand, have only limited skills. And if problems, setbacks, deadline difficulties and other conflicts arise in the project team, they have to seek backing and support "from above" much more often.

Therefore, project managers are often seen as specialists with special project methodological skills.




Job interview: clarify tasks and authority

A search entry in the large or special job exchanges quickly confirms that there is seldom a clear distinction between the management and the management of projects. On the contrary, it is very often the case that one and the same job advertisement contains both designations for reasons of the higher hit rate when entering search terms.

Source: Screenshot stepstone.de

Therefore, make sure that you clarify in detail in interviews which decision-making and responsibility options are actually associated with the advertised position.

Here you should ask your own questions, for example these:

  • Which departments will I mainly be working with?

  • When you think of the last projects, what coordination difficulties have you encountered here?

  • How can I request additional support at short notice in key projects with tight deadlines?

  • Do I have any influence on the team composition?

  • What options do I have if a project employee is really overwhelmed with his or her tasks?

  • How is the position assigned in relation to area, department and team leaders in the company?

  • Do I also get the formal function of project management with the project management?




Would you prefer a team leader to a project manager?

Project tasks are often offered to young professionals with a few years of professional experience. Appropriate offers are gladly accepted, after all the project names often sound promising and signal a partial departure from unpopular routine tasks.

Many aspiring employees are also excited to take on responsibility, define goals, delegate tasks, motivate in project meetings and thus acquire additional methodological knowledge.

However, in our consulting practice we also hear time and again that project managers who are too inexperienced suffer shipwreck if the promised support from other departments is not available, which is why deadlines are missed, costs get out of hand, the project's success is endangered and the mood in the team at some point is at zero has arrived.

As a consequence, other project managers are then viewed rather skeptically; instead, team leaders are considered, which are linked to a clear structure of responsibility and decision-making.




What comes after the project work?

With your first experience as a project manager, which should also be clearly documented in your job reference, you have the best chances of successfully applying for positions for team leaders internally or externally.

After all, you have already tried out your own leadership style in practice, can refer to concrete project successes, manage teams, solve technical problems and clarify team conflicts - and are therefore well prepared for the promotion to team leader.

Christian Püttjer & Uwe Schnierda twitter: career coaches

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