No matter the industry, there are a few things that bring project managers together. Project managers are usually detail-oriented people that get a great deal of satisfaction from their work, and they are focused on constantly improving themselves and the products that they work with. If you are entering your first project management position, or trying to build an exemplary record of accomplishments later in your career, the following tips can help you become a better project manager, and a better employee overall.
1. Don’t be Afraid to get your Hands Dirty
There is something of a stigma in many companies against the “old style” of project manager that conducted their operations from within a corner office, never venturing outside into the production floor to take an active part in their team. As startups and tech companies began to adapt a “flat” hierarchy to great effect, this project management style fell out of favor – and now project managers that spend all their time behind a closed door will lose the support and trust of their team. As a project manager, nothing can help you get a clearer picture of your team’s performance quite like participating in the day to day activities that they are assigned to. Don’t be afraid to jump in on a project when you can contribute something valuable, or when you can provide some relief to a part of your team that is overworked and under-appreciated. Don’t get too caught up in the “micro” level of your projects – but don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and demonstrate by doing.
2. Give Constructive Feedback
Project managers are only effective when they are able to create improvement within their teams – and that occasionally means giving feedback to co-workers and employees that they might not take particularly well. While there is some value in providing your feedback in a constructive and positive way, you can’t be afraid of calling out the poor performance of particular team members when necessary. Make sure that all of your feedback is documented in writing so you can measure trends and ensure that employees improve over time, and always offer suggestions for improvement when you give feedback so there is a clear path for your employees to go down.
3. Stay Professional – But Not Distant
As a project manager, you are ultimately the person that is going to take responsibility for the success or failure of your team, and that means assuming a position of some prestige/professionalism. Many project managers that are promoted from the ranks of their company find it difficult to separate themselves from the way that they used to be seen from their co-workers, and they are unable to lead a team effectively because their peers see them as being equals instead of bosses. At the same time, while you can’t go out drinking or partying with your employees, you can still maintain a close relationship with them on a professional level. An open-door policy helps to facilitate communication within a team, and your employees shouldn’t be afraid to approach you with issues that could affect their work or your project.
4. Try New Things
If you’ve found a process that is successful for you, and gives you the product that you need, it might be tempting to use that process without any changes for the remainder of your career. However, the pace of technological change is so rapid that innovations are constantly being made in all aspects of project management. The project manager that doesn’t stay up to date on the latest technology and trends is the project manager that eventually gets replaced (and that’s just not fun!). Always try new things, and measure their success and failure against the metrics that you’ve already established, rinse and repeat.
5. Don’t Burn Out!
Project managers have one of the most stressful jobs in the business world, and the pressure to be “always” connected to the office is high. Between your cell phone, laptop, and your business devices, you’re probably bombarded nearly 24/7 with news about your projects and company. Resist the temptation to spend all of your downtime working on your business projects – and try to find time to yourself where you can unplug and work on a hobby or on your personal relationships. The number one reason for leaving the project management profession is burnout – so don’t let it happen to you. We work extremely hard to provide the best project management training to our clients but we still take breaks with the family, ourselves and enjoy the world, at-large. It’s completely necessary as life, both personally and professionally, is about balance – find yours in project management and the rest becomes much easier.