If you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, they invariably will say teacher, footballer, nurse or ballerina. But in the entire history of time, I don’t expect many children have answered project manager! It’s one of those vocations that creeps up on you, and suddenly you’re managing multiple global projects with six figure budgets attached, potentially with little formal training in the area.
While there are many good project leaders out there, the great ones really work at developing their skills. They may be natural leaders with great organisation and strategy skills, but the best project managers know how to adapt to changing situations and remain a calm force in the eye of the storm.
We’ve decided to hone in, at a micro level, on ten skills we think can make a decent project manager an unforgettable one.
1. Use the 30 percent rule
A great project manager doesn’t wait for the team to reach perfection before asking for feedback. Have the confidence to ask for and receive constructive feedback at an early project stage, from both team members and other stakeholders. It ensures that significant time and resources aren’t invested in the wrong direction.
The 30 percent feedback rule is a great one, particularly for internal projects. By working in small increments and seeking initial feedback when the first 30 percent of work is complete, your team can bring things back on target if needed without going too far off course. Make it clear though that you want early, big picture ideas and not polished feedback.
2. Find an awesome project management tool
Selecting the right online collaboration tool, which should allow for complexity and synchronisation, can significantly enhance the day-to-day running of a project. While there may be a technology adoption hurdle to cross, it will be well worth it in the long run.
For further information and suggestions, check out our post 12 great tools to keep your team in sync.
3. Use lists
Philosopher and writer, Umberto Eco, wrote:
“The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists.”
Lists are our way of making sense of the world. Amidst the barrage of information we face every day at work, not to mention the long list of actions we may have at home, writing things down helps us feel less overwhelmed. And lists let you break down huge projects into finite tasks. A good project manager makes a list of specific, actionable items, with clear definitions of responsibility and ownership.
4. Maintain a bird’s eye view of multiple projects
While it’s easy and tempting to get bogged down in details, project managers shouldn’t get drawn into projects at too granular of a level. Keep your eye on the bigger picture, especially when managing multiple projects, and it will be easier for you to delegate and entrust specific responsibilities to other people.
Try to adopt the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, which says that you can produce 80 percent of the benefit of doing an entire project by doing only 20 percent of the work yourself.
5. Meet intelligently
Project teams are often dispersed across different offices, locations and time zones, removing the luxury of face-to-face meetings. If you learn how to use online meeting tools effectively, you can still form a cohesive team and keep everyone accountable.
Read more about this in our post 5 steps to better online meetings for project teams.
6. Develop quick sifting abilities
In today’s world of big data, there’s almost always too much information in any project. Train your mind to sift through this information, separating the wheat from the chaff. You should ignore what’s irrelevant and only identify and deal with what’s important.
7. Continually re-evaluate priorities
A strong project manager is agile and flexible, and ready to re-assess priorities at any moment within a project. To do this, you must have a clear scope of the project from the start and a clear understanding of potential risks. Review priorities at least once a week to make sure your team is spending time on the most crucial aspects of a project.
8. Set up calendar reminders for milestones
It’s a simple tip, but setting up micro deadlines can keep a project team on track. If you accurately judge the minimum amount of time a person will need to complete an increment of work, you can increase overall productivity. The longer the deadline you set, the more time a person will spend on an action, so keep deadlines as short as possible. Send out calendar invites to hold people accountable and make sure that everyone is clear of your expectations.
9. Only work on one project a day
If you’re managing multiple projects and regularly switching between them, you’re probably being counterproductive, wasting time and train of thought going back and forth. Try to focus on one project per day, planning your week ahead to make it possible, so you can think more deeply and creatively about the project in hand.
10. Be passionate
Only take on projects that you are passionate about and eager to sink your teeth into. Your enthusiasm will inspire and get the best out of others. Similarly, identify and play to people’s strengths, so that they too can be passionate about the project on which they are working.