Founder of OnlinePMCourses Mike Clayton Reveals the 4 Essentials of Team Leadership

Founder of OnlinePMCourses Mike Clayton Reveals the 4 Essentials of Team Leadership

There are project managers abound, but it is hard enough to find a smart and great project leader. Mike Clayton portrays a true picture of project leadership. He has given numerous lectures and training on project management to more than 5,000 people. He is very passionate about project leadership. He is the CEO and founder of OnlinePMCourses . He is a persuasive speaker and trainer. He is also a famous author, his most popular books are: “The Influence Agenda”, “How to Manage a Great Project” “Brilliant Time Management” and “How to Speak so People Listen”.  Alongside project management, change management and risk management are his core areas of expertise. He has more than 20 years of experience of training. He has given training to people across the world including the UK, the US and in the European countries.

Let’s start his interview without any delay.

TaskQue: You have got a Ph.D. in physics,  then why did you choose the project management field. What was the real inspiration or motivation?

Mike Clayton: As a student, I’d managed large events and, of course, my Ph.D. research was a project. I liked the excitement of project environments. I joined a small management consultancy, and then Deloitte. There, I learned project management and had a chance to move from managing small consulting projects to multi-million dollar projects on behalf of my clients.

TaskQue: Tell us about your best selling books on project management. Share with us in detail about the best experiences of writing your books.

Mike Clayton: I love the process of writing. As you’d expect, I treat a book as a project. I do my research, plan out the structure of the book, schedule writing sessions with targets, and then execute. The most complex book to write was “The Influence Agenda” because it is far more technical and detailed – it’s about stakeholder engagement. But it fills a gap. There were no other books at the time that look in detail at project and change management stakeholder engagement, and none that offer so much practical advice. The easiest to write were “How to Manage a Great Project and Brilliant Project Leader”. Both present content I have been delivering in training, seminars, and platform talks for many years. I knew the sequence of material, and I knew it would work.

TaskQue: How important do you think it is to develop emotional intelligence with the team? What are the key rules to get the confidence of your team?

Mike Clayton: A team needs to know it can trust its leader, even if that leader uses a light touch in her or his leadership style. In Brilliant Project Leader, I structure much of the book around the four team leadership essentials of the individual, the team, the plan, and communication. If you put enough work into these four simple things, you will get a great team. But simple isn’t always easy. Especially when giving time to individuals feels like stealing time from delivery or control. But the secret to good emotional intelligence is really to care about your people. You can ask them good questions and really listen to their responses. This brings out the best in both of you.

TaskQue: What do you think are the core principles of change management? What are your experiences of change management? “Change must involve the people – change must not be imposed upon the people”, how much do you believe in it?

Mike Clayton: For me, the core principles of Change Management require us to understand the way people respond to change and the nature of resistance. And that means you are right… you cannot impose change because it happens inside. People need to see that they have options and that, under any change, one of those options will allow them to thrive. The challenge for some will be that to thrive. They will need to make a difficult decision and follow it up with uncomfortable action.

TaskQue: Being a risk management expert, what do you think are the most important factors to avoid in an entire project life cycle?

Mike Clayton: Complacency and carelessness. The commonest error I used to see when reviewing projects is that a fresh project manager would create a brilliant risk register with clear definitions and robust analysis. It would present workable and proportionate plans too. But then they’d do nothing. The plans would not get actioned. It’s as if the risk register itself was ‘job done’. Risk management needs to be an ongoing commitment and on your agenda all the time.

TaskQue: You have given training to more than four thousand project managers. What differences had you seen in adopting project management methodologies among them?

Mike Clayton: Most of the people I have trained are thirsty for a basic methodology that will get them started and give them the confidence to know how the project will pan out and what tools to use when. The biggest differences are in the level of formality and rigor that each person wants to apply. When they get it right for the nature of their project and the culture of their organization, then their project is almost guaranteed to succeed. Almost, but not quite.

TaskQue: You have a strong profile in project management community. Who has inspired you a lot in the community?

Mike Clayton: Two project managers I look to for the deepest thinking are firstly, Samad Aidan, whose researched on leadership – particularly in cross-cultural projects – are fascinating. They take me well beyond my comfort zone. Second is Glen Alleman – a physicist like me. His rigor and rationality are exemplary. But whilst I worked on somewhat fluffy ‘business’ projects, Glen works on highly critical formal projects. So his writing shows me a world I could have entered, had I made a different turn early on. I must also mention Ron Rosenhead, with whom I have worked in the real world. He is something of a mentor to me and also an example of a fine human being.  I am grateful to Ron for contributing an article for and am eagerly anticipating articles from Samad and Glen.

TaskQue: Being a persuasive speaker and trainer, describe the events or conferences you have been part of and which events you are planning for 2017?

Mike Clayton: Most of the events and conferences I do are in-house, for my clients. 2017 will probably involve a lot of work for three of my closest clients, and a lot of work marketing and continuing to build out I shan’t turn down offers, but neither am I actively seeking speaking gigs this year.

TaskQue: In today’s world, professionals usually work more than 12 hours a day. How do you refresh your mind? What are your hobbies and interests?

Mike Clayton: My eight year old occupies much of my non-working time. But recently, in making the videos for OnlinePMCourses, I have become interested in film editing and motion graphics.

TaskQue: TaskQue is an online task management system which enables you to efficiently manage tasks, projects and work spaces in order to meet deadlines. What are your reviews about it?[Opt]

Mike Clayton: I’ve not had a chance to look at it in detail, because at the moment, my projects aren’t collaborative, and that looks like the area TaskQue is strongest. It looks great, though.


  1. Hi Atif,

    Love Clayton’s comment about “Complacency and carelessness.” that are both overcome with integrity. It’s hard to beat working with people who do what they say they are going to do. Persistence then ranks highly as well because energy can overcome lack of inertia, but all the talent in the world is impotent if it remains lethargic. Thanks again, Terrence