6 Top Project Management Mistakes

Fix these project management mistakes and you’ll be on your way to becoming a productive and effective leader

We all have stories about horrible bosses or incompetent project managers. But have you ever wondered whether you actually happen to be one of them? You know … a project manager that, even with the best of intentions, is somehow missing the leadership mark and failing at overall project management?

The sad fact is this: bad managers cost businesses billions of dollars each year, and having too many of them can bring a good company down. In fact, according to Gallup research, companies fail to choose the right candidate for a management job a whopping 82% of the time.

And no matter how wonderful your company benefits are – even if you have great incentives and employee programs, along with health insurance and other attractive perks – they won’t matter at all if your people are stuck with an ineffective manager. To put it simply: if you are a bad boss, nothing else counts.

So here’s a reality check: are you getting in your own way when it comes to being a productive and effective leader? Are you failing at successful project management and team building? Here are six common team and project management mistakes you might be making without even knowing it.

Avoid These Top Project Management Mistakes

1. Putting people last

Ineffective leaders pay more attention to policies, spreadsheets and task management than they do to their own employees. Even though they usually like to talk about how great teamwork and positive employee morale are to the organization, their true focus is on the bottom line. They are often inflexible, and tend to lose key employees due to their lack of connection and inattention to the human factor.

2. Focusing on the negative

Managers who ignore their role as a motivator, and instead incessantly focus on the negative (what is going wrong or who needs to do a better job), will eventually see the same perspective rub off on their team. In addition, with a consistent absence of positive feedback or recognition for achievements and accomplishments, workers will most likely leave the company for a better work environment.

3. Pretending to know it all

We’re all familiar with the know-it-all manager – they are better, faster, smarter and more experienced in everything in the world. They’ve been there and done that, no matter what the topic is. They resist new ideas because they already know that “it just can’t be done or we’ve already done it. I know what to do.” These types can be infuriating, and thwart the creativity and talents of the team. They’ll give you week’s worth of assignments and expect them to be completed in two days, push you to your limits, and fail to be impressed or appreciative of your best efforts.

4. Failing to communicate

If bosses don’t communicate effectively from the beginning, things can go downhill pretty quickly, says Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. “Empowerment can happen only when there’s a consensus on goals and an agreement that certain standards have to be met,” she says. “If there isn’t agreement in the beginning, that’s when certain situations start to unravel.”

When effective communication isn’t happening, the manager often ends up frustrated and befuddled, blaming employees for incompetency instead of realizing that the mission wasn’t clear in the first place. Kanter says that while they know in their head what they mean, they don’t always clearly explain it to the team, or if they do, the message gets lost in translation.

“So CEOs make speeches all the time and think everyone is interpreting their words in the exact same way, and they’re not,” says Kanter. “And they’re surprised later to find out that what they thought was going to happen didn’t exactly happen. Constant, consistent communication is important.”

5. Resisting change

Change scares most everyone – project managers and employees alike. It’s natural to resist the unknown or worry about failure or repercussions. But when a manager continues to resist it, employees learn fast that their new ideas or creative solutions will always be rejected. And so they settle in and just “get the job done and get out!”

It’s important to know, however, that managers usually don’t resist change because they want to sabotage projects or undermine employees. The reasons usually have something to do with:

  • a fear of surprises or the unknown
  • a level of mistrust somewhere in the organization
  • a loss of control or job security
  • bad timing
  • personality type

6. Shunning Responsibility

Managers who play the blame game every time something goes wrong (or plead ignorance when superiors ask questions), are playing with fire. Experts say it’s a bad idea, and usually backfires on those who refuse to take responsibility for their actions, department or projects.

For starters,when a manager uses that type of strategy, they send the message to employees and customers that they don’t have any new ideas to offer or contribute. And according to Richard Levick, CEO of public relations firm Levick, blaming others only shines the spotlight on past failures.

“When a CEO or any alleged leader spends more than a few moments blaming others, they’re saying, ‘I don’t have the ability, the leadership or the vision to take us where we need to go,” says Levick.


Improve Your Project Management Style and Improve Teamwork

So what do you think? Are you guilty of making any of these management mistakes? Or do you have experience dealing with a manager who makes them? Were you or your team less productive, and how did you handle the situation?

To learn more project management and team building, check out our guide – a 10 Step Guide to Building Better Teamwork.