Advice from Successful Project Managers

A successful project manager needs to have many skills. This is a high stress position that involves intense juggling between a professional team and a client. As a result, many don’t know how to cope with the communication and productivity challenges that stem from the specifics of the job.

Luckily, some of the world’s most successful project managers have stepped in to share their experience. They’ve recommended certain practices and self-improvement options that can potentially result in the establishment of a successful career.

The Importance of Setting Expectations Right from the Start

The first rule of successful project management is setting expectations and sticking to those throughout the process. This is the advice of Brett Harned, Digital PM Summit organizer and project management vice president at Happy Cog.

One of the most important roles of the PM is expectation management. If clients expect one thing and they don’t get it, the interaction will be doomed right from the start.

A project manager cannot do a good job without specific information about the deadline, the budget for project execution and level of effort required. These inquiries will have to be answered right from the start, enabling everyone involved to be on the same page.

It is the PM’s job to ask questions and clarify unknowns that could potentially lead to confrontation in the future. In fact, working with a client to answer these inquiries can lead to a better execution, a better allocation of resources and a much bigger level of satisfaction with the outcome.

Building Trust

A project manager is a professional that’s heavily responsible for building trust.

In order to accomplish this goal, a PM will have to get involved in a couple of important processes. For a start, they should build their professional credibility. Building credibility in the office is all about consistency and following through.

Asking for team and client feedback throughout the process, standing behind your promises and working towards effective conflict resolution are also important trust building steps.

A PM is a communication master. Communication involves both attentive listening and providing the information that is needed for the execution of the project. Thus, a project manager should know when to ask questions, when to offer reassurance and when to do quality control in an attempt to guarantee precision.

Winning and maintaining the trust of a professional team and a client is not an easy task. In fact, this is a continuous process that will necessitate a lot of self-improvement. Openness to communication and flexibility will be quite beneficial in those early phases. As you gain more experience, you will find it a whole lot easier to secure trust and keep it alive.

Don’t Assume

Don’t assume anything when doing business. When in doubt, pick up the phone and ask a question. It’s a whole lot better to muster the courage and make a stupid inquire than to disappoint with mediocre execution.

According to Copious production director Adam Edgerton, many project managers relies excessively on email or they simply don’t want to clarify issues with a client. Picking up the phone is an essential part of the process, even if it feels uncomfortable at times.

Miscommunication can lead to massive misunderstandings, the loss of funds and worst of all – the loss of clients.

Even when people are working in a global environment, it’s still possible to maintain face-to-face communication. A Skype video call, for example, is all that it takes to get a better idea about where the client is at and what they really want. Spending 15 minutes on clarifying issues can save a lot of time in the long run.

Learn How to Prioritize

At times, project managers will feel like 10 different experts who have to deal with conflicting, massive and difficult to handle task. If such a pace of work is maintained continuously, it will potentially lead to a disaster.

The best project managers out there know how to prioritize tasks and what to dedicate their undivided attention to.

Project execution issues change all the time. Here’s where flexibility plays a role. As a project manager, you should know when to temporarily give up on something in order to increase the efficiency of the process.

A brief daily planning session with the team, for example, will be great for identifying challenges during the specific phase of execution and the ways to overcome those. All team members should coordinate their priorities and distribute tasks. Good project managers are open to feedback and they know how to make changes on the go. Don’t be afraid to abandon the modus operandi that’s not working. A little bit of chaos that comes with getting reorganized will eventually pay off in the long run.

Be Honest, Learn How to Deliver Bad News

This is probably the most difficult thing for project managers to master.

Being honest can get people mad. It can lead to a backlash every now and then. Nobody likes being yelled at by a stressed out client. Trying to cover up for a specific issue, however, will have much worse consequences once the truth comes to the surface.

Providing authentic information requires a lot of courage. Nobody is comfortable with delivering bad news but in the end, this is one of the steps towards establishing credibility and trust.

After all, everybody can be a successful project manager when things are going according to plan. The skills and experience of experts are tested in stressful situations when on the spot decisions will either make or break the entire endeavor.

Recommended Project Management Software

If you’re interested in learning more about top rated project management software, the editors at actively recommend the following:

1 Wrike

Visit website

Tackle complex projects with Wrike’s award-winning project management software. Break projects into simple steps, assign tasks to team members, and visualize progress with Gantt charts, Kanban boards, and calendars. Manage resource allocation and forecasting with software that’s easy to launch. Automation and AI features strip away time-consuming admin tasks so you can do the best work of your life. Streamline your practices, align your team, and ensure you hit deadlines and stay on budget.

Learn more about Wrike

2 Smartsheet

Visit website

Smartsheet is an online work execution platform empowering organizations of all sizes to plan, manage, automate, and report on work. Over 80,000 brands rely on Smartsheet for project and work management.

Learn more about Smartsheet

3 ClickUp

Visit website

ClickUp is one of the highest-rated project management tools today. Use Docs, Reminders, Goals, Calendars, Chat, scheduling, assigned comments, custom views, & more with this all-in-one project management tool.

Used by 800,000+ teams in companies like Airbnb, Google, and Uber, it brings all of your projects into a single app! Built for teams of all sizes and industries, Our fully customizable & proprietary features make it a must-have for anyone wanting to keep project management in one place.

Learn more about ClickUp

Share Article


Alicia Honeycutt Avatar
Get the Free Newsletter!
Subscribe to Project Management Insider for best practices, reviews and resources.
This email address is invalid.
Get the Free Newsletter!
Subscribe to Project Management Insider for best practices, reviews and resources.
This email address is invalid.

Demos, trials & More information

Check out our library of 60+ pm books