Protege isn’t a word that is often used lightly. It implies someone who can completely replace or be substitute for the person who is mentoring them. It’s someone who can add such a level of insight and ability to what they do that there is no question of the skills they have. This post by Hajar Hamid discusses what it is to select a protege from within an organization from the project team, and the qualities that are required for that protege to truly fit the bill. To begin with, Hamid makes an interesting point about the amount of time it takes to choose the correct protege.
Yes, there are times when it can be painfully apparent that a person has the knack, but more often than not finding the individual with the right qualities takes time and insight.
Hamid suggests that you treat the search, identification, and vetting of a protege just like another project. Does he mean using estimates, SLAs and stakeholder meetings? Probably not – but the person who is seeking out the protege should have a checklist of characteristics they are looking for in the right candidate. Do you want someone who is nose-to-the-grindstone busy at all points in the day, or someone who can kick back and get involved in a non-business conversation with peers? Is it more valuable to have someone who is willing to take all data into account and deliberate or someone who makes a decision quickly and sticks to it no matter what? It’s these questions that Hamid hopes to answer with his list of six qualities a manager should look for when choosing a new potential project manager. The list includes a mix of hard and soft skills: friendliness is alongside organizational skills, for instance. Also included are a willingness to learn, having vision, and being diplomatic (one can assume both for internal conflicts as well as tense stakeholder meetings). A quality in particular that proves again and again to be useful to project managers is the ability to be firm. As described in the post:
When making decisions or providing direction, a project manager needs to be firm. Not every decision will be popular. Resistance may occur, but the project manager must stick to her or his ground. When making decisions or providing direction, a project manager needs to be firm. Not every decision will be popular. Resistance may occur, but the project manager must stick to her or his ground.
Making a well-planned decision and then sticking buy it seems like a common enough trait, but without it team members won’t know whether any decision made by the project manager will stick, and that can’t lead to anything good for the project manager that selected them as a protege.