Anyone can give you the normal advice for hopefully achieving success on your projects (remember, nothing is guaranteed). Conduct good meetings, practice excellent communication, engage the project client regularly, etc. The list can go on and on. Those are definitely things we need to do and things we can discuss…in another article sometime. Today let’s consider some creative tips you can practice to be great at what you’re trying to do…lead projects. Here are five offbeat tips that I’ve come up with…
Be proactive, not reactive. The effective project manager is not one who waits for direction from others. That’s called being a team member, not a team leader. And the project manager is a team leader. The project manager is in charge – it’s their job to ask questions, look for solutions, make assignments. It’s not their job to sit on their hands waiting for direction. It’s ok to be waiting on some answers before making a decision. But it’s never ok to allow things to be waiting on hold till someone tells you what to do next. If you need more information before acting, get it. Don’t be lazy or passive – be proactive.
Care about everything, but don’t dwell on it. There are many things on the project that we – as project managers – need to care deeply about. The project itself, the team, the client, progress, and success to name a few. But we need to be sure not to dwell too much on one aspect – we have too much to do. We need to make decisions and make good ones. We need to be confident in our ability to handle situations and then move on. Once it’s decided on, don’t dwell anymore on it – move on to the next situation. If we don’t do that, and we dwell too much on any single aspect of the project…that’s when we fall behind, our leadership falters, and the project starts to get into trouble.
Understand human nature. As project managers we need to understand our team and their individual characteristics as much as possible. Each person is an individual – knowledge of human nature will go a long way in making a skilled project manager also a good resource manager. Know how your team works – know their chemistry. Having a good understanding of human nature will give you insight into how to manage and motivate your team to accomplish the goals of the project.
Make good decisions based on nothing. Managing the project is a constant challenge – it is definitely not for the faint of heart. You will constantly be making decisions for your project, for the team, and for your client. You won’t always have solid facts or even complete and accurate information in front of you to help make those decisions. You may sometimes be winging it with little information or very sketchy data. The key is to remain confident, use what information and input you can gather, and then make the best decision you can and go with it. Be a confident leader and your project team will follow.
Become politically savvy. Finally, as much as we may hate the politics side, we need to be – or become – politically savvy. There are going to be those times when we have to negotiate, be connected, and pull some strings in order to get certain things done on the project and for the project. This usually occurs when you’re trying to obtain a key resource or get a roadblock handled by someone in your organization. At any rate, it is important that the project manager be somewhat politically savvy in order to get key work accomplished. Network in your organization and gain visibility if you don’t have enough of it yet. The quiet project manager doesn’t get the things he needs for his project.
Again, these aren’t any groundbreaking ideas by any stretch of the imagination. But they aren’t necessarily what you would consider for your regular daily PM advice, either. The key with project management success is really this: learn from your mistakes, don’t repeat them, understand what makes people work, understand what specifically makes your clients happy, and understand how to get things you want and need for your project from others in your organization. You do well in those areas and you’ll generally have better success running your projects.