8 Tips to Becoming a Stellar Project Manager
At some point in your career, you’ll likely get the opportunity to take the lead on a project. Project management might seem easy until you’re overseeing a group of people and meeting deadlines and touchpoints with a picky client. Without the right approach, it can feel as though you’re in over your head.
Most project failures occur when people don’t embrace their roles effectively. Your job as the manager is ensuring everyone knows what to do, when to meet deadlines and how best to acquire any skills they might be lacking. Unfortunately, only 58% of project managers feel their organization understands the value of what they do. You may face challenges in completing a project satisfactorily without the full backing of upper management.
Whether you have your boss’s full support or are pretty much on your own, there are some things you can do to ensure successful results. Here are eight tips to becoming a stellar project manager and impressing both your team members and company leadership.
1. Develop the Right Skills
The most fruitful project managers have certain skills that translate well into a project leadership role. Some of the skills you’ll need include:
- Thick skin
- Amateur psychology
- Clear communication
Of course, many other factors come into play, including how you communicate and if your team members feel heard and valued by you. Do an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses and seek ways of improving on the areas where you lack ability.
For example, if you’re disorganized, read books or listen to podcasts about ways to improve. Take a psychology course at your local community college. Attend Dale Carnegie and learn the best ways of communicating clearly without offending.
2. Highlight Your Value
Getting your boss to give you the first chance at managing a project isn’t easy. The entire goal of project management is saving time and money. A mismanaged project has the opposite impact. It might require more time, cost more money and result in an angry client. Share the steps you’ve taken to learn project management and the skills you’ve developed along the way.
3. Expand Your Education
A project manager tends to have a lot of specialized leadership skills. You may already have a business degree, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still learn. Look for ways of expanding your education. Gaining additional knowledge can take many different forms:
- Go back for an MBA with a focus on leadership.
- Take online courses geared specifically toward project management.
- Ask if you can shadow one of the current project managers and learn from them.
- Talk to your manager about areas they’d like to see you improve, and then seek ways to get better.
When your company sees how serious you are about gaining the skills needed to do an effective job, they’ll be more likely to trust you with overseeing important ventures.
4. Exude Enthusiasm
The best project managers don’t order their team around. Instead, they have such a passion and authority for the task at hand that they inspire others to excel. Start any project with an informal meeting and let those in your group know how excited you are to work with them. Discuss what special skills each person brings to the team and what work they most enjoy.
Practice showing enthusiasm in front of a mirror. You don’t want to overdo it and come off as inauthentic, but you also want to convey how excited you are. Pay attention to others filled with passion and follow their lead.
5. Learn to Delegate
Project managers often have a “get it done” personality. It might seem easier to do a bunch of the work yourself and make sure it’s completed the way you want and on time. However, taking on too many tasks instead of relying on your team sends the wrong message. People won’t feel valued, and you’ll also burn out more quickly.
Ask your team to let you know if you’re taking on too many tasks or not giving them enough freedom to do their work. They should feel comfortable coming to you with concerns without fear of repercussions.
6. Hone Problem Solving Skills
Excellent project managers must come up with solutions on the fly and keep things moving at a steady pace. There are techniques to better your problem-solving skills, such as:
- Developing a systematic approach
- Asking questions aimed at finding a solution
- Taking a break and resetting your thinking
- Asking for help
You may even want to come up with a list of steps to go through whenever you face a problem for which you don’t have an immediate answer.
7. Empower Your Team
Want to get the best-finished product imaginable? Utilize the expertise on your team. Whether you chose your project members or management assigned people to the roles, it is likely because they have specific skills needed to complete the task successfully. Find out what each person does best and then encourage their input in that area.
Communication is vital here. Talk to members individually and make sure they’re happy with their role on the team. Is there something they feel they could do better than the tasks they are currently completing? How can you adjust things to help them feel more valued and also gain their input? You want the best person for each position, and that means changing things occasionally.
8. Define Milestones
Your job as a project manager is helping your team accomplish big goals on time. In the beginning, break down larger tasks into smaller goals. Set a time limit on when items are due. Be flexible, and move milestones as needed to conclude the project effectively. At the same time, understand good enough is sometimes OK, and you don’t have to finish everything to perfection. At times, deadlines are more important than extreme excellence.
Never Stop Learning
The best project managers keep learning throughout their lives. Take time to gather feedback from the team after a job is completed. If you allow them to turn in anonymous comments, you’ll get more honest input. If a topic comes up more than once, figure out how to improve things for the next job. Take classes, earn certifications and pay attention to your strengths and weaknesses. With time and effort, you’ll become the best project manager in your company.
Lexie is a UX content strategist and web designer. She enjoys copious amounts of coffee (with a dash of milk) and walking her golden doodle. Subscribe to her design blog, Design Roast, and follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.