Should you as the project manager take on other tasks assigned to members of your team?

Have you ever asked “Should I as the Project Manager or Team Leader take on other tasks assigned to other members of the team?”

This is a question that people in various leadership positions have addressed.

This article will put in some scenarios that explore, reasons why people performed this extra work, risks involved, and why the leader was right or wrong in the decision.

Scenarios of when a leader took on the teamwork:

Scenario 1: The covering for an underperformer

Cause:
A Project Manager had an underperforming team member. Each day, when the underperformer had to turn in an assignment, the person would contact the Project Manager with a story of not having the ability. The Project Manager would spend an extra three hours per week doing it.

Results:
Because the Project Manager was concentrating on the underperformers work along with his work, much of the Project Manager’s job, like the weekly status reports started to fall behind. Other members of the team began to resent the Project Manager for allowing this underperformer to continue in the team.

The moral of the Project team was down, causing the team to miss other assignments. The Project Manager’s sponsor was also not happy with not receiving the promised status reports and noticed the smaller problems of tasks the team was missing.

Read also: You have an unreliable team member. What should you do?

How to deal with unreliable project team members

Scenario 2: The Critical  Subject Matter Expert (SME) leaves the project

Cause:
A critical team member may leave the team. In this situation, a Project Manager had a team member end up in the hospital. This person was an expert in the field of an important task that had to finish in the next two weeks. There was no other person who could perform the work assigned to this person.

The Project Manager also had qualifications in the team members area of expertise. The Project Manager took on the hospitalized team member’s work.

Results:
The Project Manager taking on this extra work, lead to the task needing two additional working days. The Project Manager already had this in the Risk Management Plan, and the additional working days were in the Contingency Reserve.

In this scenario, the project was saved.

Scenario 3: Extra Business requirement that interrupts project work.

Cause:
In this scenario, there are two Project Teams, who are remodeling a warehouse. One, the Shelving team, had the assignment to replace the old shelves with a more modern design.

The other team, the electronic team, was to replace the lighting system with a more modern energy-efficient design.

Both teams had an extra assignment that twice a day, they were to help unload the delivery trucks and put the material in the temporary storage area when they arrived.

Whenever the trucks arrived, both teams would have to drop all work they were doing and unload the truck.

Unloading of truck

The Project Manager of the team doing electronics would be seen on the sides doing nothing except maybe drinking a soda. At the same time, the Project Manager for the Shelve Team was unloading the truck alongside the other team members.

Result:
The results, the shelving team looked at their Project Manager with respect and were more productive.

On the other hand, the moral of the Electronic team was going down, and they were getting angry. Their work started slowing.

In summary

The scenarios showed reasons why a Project Manager has taken over the tasks of other members of the projects. There are times it is justified, as the work is a part of the project planning, therefore it is a part of the project managers tasks.

  • In Scenario 2 and 3, we have a case where, from the beginning, the project manager planned to do the work, and it does not interfere with the project managers regular assignments.
  • In Scenario 1 and the case of the Electronic Team Project Manager in scenario 3, we have examples of poor leadership.
  • Scenario 1, the project manager did not plan for an underperformer, nor did the person take a stand against the underperformer.
  • Scenario 3. The project manager let the team see a bad example of leadership. You lead by example, plus, it was part of the assigned work that all members assist in unloading the delivery trucks. Besides, if the project manager had time to walk around and drink a soda, the project manager could support the team like the project manager of the shelving team.

Conclusion

The overall answer to this question, for a good project manager, is simple: It depends on the situation:

If the work is a part of the project managers work or the case of an emergency, best described in scenario 2, and planned, then, yes, do the job.

If it is not part of the project managers work, best described in scenario 1, then it will interfere with the project, and a project manager is destined to fail.

Note to scenario 3:

This was a case of planned work, and an example of leading by example: If you have the time to support your team, it is always good for morale. So long it does not interfere with the daily project manager’s tasks it helps motivate the team.

Ken Tillery

Ken holds a Master of Science in Global Management and currently works as a Global Project Manager and has worked as a Global Service Delivery Manager. Ken spent the last 15 years leading globally dispersed teams with team members located in multiple countries. Has also given classes on how to deal with cultural differences and related issues when working with project teams with members located across borders and continents.

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