There are days and projects where I wonder which character type a good Project Manager should emulate. In video games and gaming culture there are specific roles for each character on a team. A well-balanced team can be pretty successful because the responsibilities are split to leverage each member’s specific skills.
In large agencies and smaller companies, teams are often selected to form a small group assigned to that project. Take, for example, an Account Strategist, a Project Manager, a Designer, and Developer. They each have a specific part to play, and sometimes their knowledge and tasks overlap, but thinking about them in terms of archetypes can illustrate a different perspective of the group dynamic.
If you don’t believe me, think of any superhero group. If they don’t learn to work together and play to their strengths, they will fail.
Lately, I’ve been debating with myself (I like to look at life through a TV/movie/video game lens), should a good Project Manager be more of a Tank or a Healer?
In multiplayer video games, a player’s stats and abilities can change their role, but typically there are Damagers, Tanks, Healers, and hybrids.
- Damagers are your typical fighters; they are on the offense and have pretty consistent attacking power.
- Tanks are usually the big guys, but sometimes just a character with high health and/or resistance. Tanks can act like a shield allowing the rest of the team to advance or be used like a wrecking ball.
- Healers are characters with the ability to heal or revive teammates (often a wizard, shaman or another magical person). Healers usually have the least attack power, but they play a vital role in the longevity of a campaign. A well-protected healer can deal out extra health and defense to the rest of the team; one of the best symbiotic relationships!
- And finally, hybrids are characters that combine different attributes to hopefully round out the team; sometimes an additional fighter with less attack damage in exchange for agility.
WHAT is he talking about?
Stay with me! It will start to make sense.
There are days where I feel like I need to be a Tank: handling tough conversations, taking the brunt of client questions and feedback, and allowing the rest of my team to keep their eyes on the prize. If everyone else is busy and an urgent task comes up, this Tank will handle it. As I described in my last post, sometimes a Project Manager has to wear multiple hats, and when it feels like you’re doing more than one job you start to see yourself like a Tank. A massive, green Hulk, that everyone is glad to have on the team instead of against.
As I write this I realize anyone on the team can be a Tank, and perhaps it makes more sense for a good Project Manager to be a Healer. We often have to help our team stay on track, make sure they have what they need, give them words of encouragement, and make sure they don’t burn out. A team can survive without a Healer for a time, but without the support system in place, they can’t go on forever.
What about the others types? Well…other Project Managers might see themselves as Damagers or agile ninjas attacking the workload, but the way I see it, it’s the designer and developers who fall into those slots.
You need an Account Strategist to think big, be proactive, and sometimes take the obvious lead, maybe they’re the tank!
It could look like this:
- Account Strategist – Tank
- Project Manager – Healer
- Designer – Damager
- Developer – Hybrid Ninja
Maybe it’s not just the type of work each member performs, perhaps it’s the personal qualities each person exudes that shape the team. Everyone is capable of giving support and encouragement, and sometimes even Healers have to go on the offense.
Video games are not exempt from sexism and prejudice, and I’ve often witnessed and even felt the stigma of being a Healer. The Healer plays a passive role, often avoided by male players because it’s viewed as a feminine role, but they all admit that they rely heavily on Healers, and a great Healer who can attack and support is revered!
Who hasn’t wanted to be the dashing prince, swinging a sword, defeating bad guys, or the beast barreling in head first? It’s easy to assume the one in front whose killing the most is the leader of the team, but sometimes a great leader is in the back, helping everyone.