The Halo Effect and Project Success

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Have you ever seen someone within your organization, being put into a position, just because they had experience, and success in one area, so the folks upstairs assumed this success would transfer into another job or role within an organization, only to watch a disaster unfold before your very eyes? If you said “yes” then, you have seen the effects of the “Halo Effect” in action. The definition of the “Halo-Effect” is as follows: Generalization from the perception of one outstanding personality trait to an overly favorable evaluation of the whole personality (Merriam-Webster). Many times it’s assumed or taken for granted that a great department manager, or some other person with a specialized are of expertise e.g. accounting will be great as project manager on an accounting project, because this is within that persons area of expertise, but this is not necessarily a fact. Project management not only involves one area of expertise, but a whole range of activities that also require specialized training. Many questions should be answered before choosing a project manager, just because they possess one area of expertise.

Some of these questions are as follows:

  • Is the person able to work well within a team environment, or does the person function better going “solo”?
  • Does this person have the required soft/people skills and temperament needed to manage a project team, or is it someone people prefer not to be around unless they absolutely must?
  • Because running a department is much different than running a project, does the person have the required skills/knowledge to manage a project?
  • Does the person have trouble with seeking input from others, because they already know it all, and have a “my way or the highway” approach?
  • Does this person have any real leadership skills and has the ability to lead people in a team environment, or is their approach “I’m the boss and I said so.” Remember, a being a boss and a manager are two very different roles that require very different skills and ability. Almost anyone can be a “boss”, but being a manager/leader is much, much different.
  • Can the person handle stress without flying off the handle, are they able to multi task, or do they go into panic mode, at the slightest sigh of trouble? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may want to re-think your choice.
  • Can the person make good solid, sound decisions, sometimes in quick fashion, or are decisions approached with indecision, or in need of a small committee when faced with even a simple challenge?
  • Last, because project management is about 75% communications, is the person able to effectively communicate/listen. Keep in mind effective communicating/listening is paramount to project success.

Remember, just because a person is great in one role, does not mean they will be equally great in anther role, such as being project manager. Project management requires many different skills and areas of knowledge, so give some thought before the “halo effect” has a negative and “devilish” result on your next project.

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