How to be an effective project manager19 Sep 2019
Project management is a core skill no matter your job title. As the leader of any collaborative effort, you need to understand who you’re working with and how your management approach impacts their ability to succeed. I believe that no matter what project management technique you use, there are four key behaviours that make or break any team effort.
4 tips for being an effective project manager
1) Be proactive
Whether project management is your assigned role or you happen to be in charge of a particular collaboration for other reasons, being proactive is essential. Don’t ever assume that everyone knows what to do, or that a task is completed as planned. Always ask.
One way to make this easier on yourself is to look ahead and understand what the project requires over the next few weeks. Identify the resources or information needed at each stage of the project and check it’s all arranged. With this approach, you can ask questions early and be proactive in finding solutions rather an reactive when a disaster hits.
2) Communicate clearly
I think the most important thing for any leader to understand is that there is no one way of communicating. You must learn to tailor your communication to each individual or group you interact with, as well as to the type of information you need to convey.
Some people work better with a visual representation of the information. Others like to ask questions to clarify their understanding. However, I know colleagues who prefer I put everything in an email so they can work through it in their own time, free from distractions.
You’ll be most effective if you identify how different items on your agenda are best communicated and what works for your current team or client.
Remember that listening is also a key form of communication. Listen to what others are saying in meetings so you get a feel for how they think the project is going or where their pain points are. You may be able to solve their problems easily once you’re aware they exist.
3) Develop emotional intelligence
Closely linked to clear communication is developing high emotional intelligence. You’ll get the most out of people if you recognise that everyone is unique. Each person you work with has different skills, experience and knowledge that brings a unique perspective to each discussion.
By learning to read and connect with those you work with, you can tailor your approach in a way that brings out the best in them. Listen to their ideas, be open-minded about their contributions and considerate in your responses.
This isn’t just relevant to your colleagues either. Quickly learning how your clients tick helps you find the best way to communicate with them. Whether they want regular email updates or occasional longer meetings, understanding this helps build their trust in you and your company.
4) Lead your team
Great leaders inspire their team to work to the best of their ability, but aren’t afraid to take charge when required. Effective project managers must have these same skills.
How you behave, motivate and encourage sets the tone for the whole team. If you create time and space to talk to colleagues, you’ll encourage a collaborative approach across the board.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when thinking about how you lead each project:
- Keep to your own deadlines – show you take them seriously.
- Lead open meetings – where everyone can contribute and no idea is considered stupid.
- Follow up when you say you will – to show you expect the same of others.
- Talk to your team – ask how they’re finding the project, and give them chance to share privately.
- Be human – show your team you care about their life outside the project too.
- Take the lead – Make suggestions for improvement, such as moving everyone closer together if you want more creativity or booking a meeting room once a week for focused discussions.
If you’re keen to improve your professional skills, check out ICML’s selection of project management courses. We offer out-of-office sessions or in-house training in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and anywhere else in Australia.