Just because your title doesn’t include the words “project manager,” doesn’t mean you aren’t already one, or should become one.
Whether you’re a real estate developer, financial advisor, or restaurant manager, you must develop some basic project management skills in order to succeed. By mastering control of your projects, you build strong relationships and become a better leader.
As a project manager, you own the big picture. You possess an end-to-end understanding of the job at hand. All the other members of your team have their specific area of focus, with expertise that runs deep. Conversely, your expertise runs wide: from soup to nuts, you’ve got your arms around each and every step of the project, giving you an enormous breadth of knowledge.
Your first task should be embracing and understanding the strategy behind your assignment: Why it’s being launched, the resources that will be required, and the timeline— from conception to completion.
As the project lead, you’ll be interacting with every key touch point to ensure success. You’ll be able to anticipate what problems will need solving, how to fix them, and how to prevent future problems from escalating.
What are the key functions of execution? As a project manager, you’ll be:
- Overseeing a host of activities and responsibilities. Along the way, you’ll learn how to ruthlessly prioritize goals and individual tasks to efficiently bring an assignment to successful execution.
- Determining the scope, costs and scheduling needs of your project From high level down to the very granular: setting a budget, scheduling meetings, and chasing action items with participants.
- Making sure that everyone involved is always on the same page regarding the plan, responsibilities and success metrics.
- Tracking the progress and budget of your project in terms of dollars spent and expected profits (ROI).
Use the tools that work for you. There are a number of certification exams and programs out there such as PMP, Six Sigma, Agile Scrum, to name a few. But having a fancy credential is not going to replace hands-on experience. So before you commit to anything, take a hearty dive into a project. Get some real-world experience under your belt— teach yourself to connect all the dots, communicate and become compulsively organized. Once you’re familiar with the territory, explore what kind of tools and programs would best geared toward your specific pipeline of work, and the best way to navigate through it.
Take on the hard projects. When the going gets tough, don’t give up. Be bold. Show your team and senior management that you are the “go to” person for any assignment, no matter how hard.
If you see something that’s broken, take the initiative to fix it. This will help you gain visibility within your company and build your brand. Work with your team to find solutions and keep the project moving forward. Good project managers are problem solvers: They get the job done despite obstacles, while remaining calm and positive.
You are the company spokesperson for every project you lead. As such, you’ll learn to become an effective communications manager— parsing out updates and directions to a variety of stakeholders, executives, departments and teams. You’ll refine your written and verbal skills, and adjust them to suit each particular audience.
Set clear expectations. Once you’ve kicked off your assignment, assemble your team and give clear direction, holding members accountable for their specific deliverables. Then, give them the freedom to make decisions in their area of expertise, and refrain from judging or intervening unless absolutely necessary. Tone is a critical part of communicating; pay attention to the sound of any hidden negative or demeaning messages hidden behind your words.
Also, tailor your approach to each team member to get the information you need and impart your concerns and instructions. As a manager, you know that each team member has a unique work style and reacts differently to different types of feedback. It’s your job to understand what communication tactics work best with each team member.
Here’s what you’ll gain.
As a project manager, you will get plenty of opportunities to pick up new skills, build solid relationships, and understand the functions and roles of all the teams involved in the business— that’s the “big picture” view that you wouldn’t get any other way.
What about you? What strategies do you employ to be a great project manager? We’d love to hear more about that. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.