If Darth Vader was a Project Manager

In the course of managing a project mistakes are going to happen. The team is human and mental lapses or errors in judgement occur as a matter of course. The question is not if mistakes will happen, but rather how you handle them when they do. If Darth Vader was the project manager, he would probably grab the team member by the throat and apply the death grip.

You could take that same approach, although with a limited team, you might go through your resources rather quickly and then your project would grind to a halt and no deliverables would get done. Additionally, though maybe not obvious in the movie, what happens when Darth Vader makes a mistake?  Darth Vader’s mistakes were rather less obvious.  As a project manager if you don’t create a collaborative environment where people feel comfortable taking risks within constraints and making decisions on their own without fear of reprisal, you will create a culture of fear, and that is a mistake.

A culture of fear is the mistake of the project manager. If it exists it usually, even if unwittingly, has been created by design by the project manager, or by the organization and allowed to continue under the project manager. The project manager needs to encourage open dialogue and taking the initiative without penalizing people for mistakes; or in Darth’s case expiring people for making mistakes.

When a mistake does occur, the first step is to separate it from the person. You do this by objectifying it. This can be painful, because a part of you may want to point a finger, to hold someone responsible, to get someone to “own” up to it. This can be especially true if the personality that made the mistake is cocky, careless or aloof to begin with. You need to resist the temptation and instead isolate the person from the mistake, and put it on the table, so to speak, and turn it around allowing everyone to examine it and decide how to correct it.

In separating the mistake from the person, you need to be very careful about the language being used. Make sure it is directed at the mistake or how to rectify the situation, and not at the individual who caused it. Only when you create this separation between the person and the problem will you get the most effective resolution. Also remember, the other team members will be watching very closely what you do, because they want to understand how “safe” the environment is, in case they stick their neck out either through action or through words, and things don’t quite go as planned.

Team members project themselves into the resolution of a problem. They imagine themselves in the situation and put themselves into the circumstances; and based on how you handle it they will either give you credit for wisdom and then draw closer creating a stronger team; or they will give you Darth Vader points and draw away creating an environment of mistrust and fear.