Some of the best at their craft have a set of “rules” they follow to make sure they achieve the highest mark to be considered best in class. It takes a lot of focus, dedication, and love of what you do to rise to the top.
If you are looking for ways to be a more productive and successful project manager, familiarize yourself with these top habits practiced regularly by the best project managers and passed down to inspire and motivate others.
Managing large projects and cross-functional teams from kick off to delivery and beyond is a large undertaking and a lot of work. As a leader, your attitude can make or break a meeting and have great influence on the team. No matter how the day starts, keep a positive attitude, and let your team know there is always a solution to any issue.
Stress and roadblocks are to be expected, but there is always a way around, through, or over any hurdle that comes your way. Encourage, motivate, and guide your team through each day of work and look forward to the next.
Listen and ask questions
Don’t just listen to others; practice active listening. Put down the phone or notes, and make eye contact or turn on your camera and sound when on video. Listen to what people are saying without thinking about your response.
When in conversation with associates, keep your talking to a minimum. Ask questions, then let them answer. Allow them to tell you about what they are doing and why they are doing it. This reinforces ownership and nurtures accountability.
Plan well in the beginning
Getting everything identified and lined up in the beginning before any work has been done will allow you to keep on top of things right away. Most of the work for a project manager is done in the beginning. Plan, organize, and prioritize for a smooth transition into work, follow up, and delivery.
At the first hint of a problem, be ready to tackle it and come to a resolution. Don’t wait until it is too late to bring up the obvious. Follow an escalation plan, if needed. A seasoned project manager will see the red flags right away. A newer PM will have a gut feeling that something is wrong and should trust that intuition.
Create an effective meeting cadence
While meetings are important, too many meetings will burn people out or have them skipping. Too infrequent, and the team may take it upon themselves to meet without you or work in a silo. Create a meeting cadence with your team, management, and clients and vendors that makes the best use of everyone’s time each week and that keeps attendees accountable and responding to invites.
Mix up communications (in person, email, phone, video call, IM)
Keep things balanced by creating a well-rounded mix of in-person and video meetings, phone calls, instant messages, and email communications. Keep meetings in-person and video meetings for important updates and presentations, email for follow up and formal requests, instant messaging for check-ins and reminders, and phone calls for one-on-ones and mitigation issues.
From the onset, it is important to set a level of trust with everyone involved. The project team, leadership, and clients should know they can come to you with anything and that you will champion progress and solutions.
It is easy to get deep into work and move from one task to another without looking up. Keep track of individual work and progress, making it a point to celebrate even the smallest of successes. People respond positively to compliments and to highlights of their hard work.
Celebrating success motivates and energizes people when they feel recognized and appreciated. Recognition can be as simple as a mention during a meeting or a more in-depth review during a lessons-learned or project launch communication.
Lead by example
As a project manager, you lead the culture on your team. Make decisions confidently, and live the values that earned you this position. A strong leader motivates and creates strong colleagues.
Minimize stress and fear
When the going gets tough, keep a positive attitude, and let stress roll off your back. Channeling any stress and fear you are feeling to your team will always send things in the wrong direction, and getting back on track takes more energy and time than you can imagine.
When navigating tough decisions and addressing issues, remain transparent, providing just enough detail and advance notice of change to keep everyone in the know. Tailor the information depending on the audience, and learn how much detail to provide and when to keep control over things.
Get to know team members
Learn who your employees are as people. Learn about their families, their successes outside of work, their hobbies, and what makes them unique. Acknowledge milestones such as birthdays, weddings, and babies. When things get rough, acknowledge illness, death, decisions to leave the team or company, and other hardships just like you would a friend or acquaintance.
Choose and use a PMS
Do your research, and implement a project management system (PMS) if there isn’t already one in place. It will help manage all of the details of the project and track everything related to timeline, cost, and resources to get the job done on or ahead of time and within or under budget.
There is always something new to learn or understand. Technology is constantly evolving at lightning speed, and processes always need to be updated and modernized. Be a lifelong learner, and the benefits to your projects and team will be exponential.
Go the extra mile
Roll up your sleeves, and help out when things hit a bind or resources are short. A great example is to provide quality assurance (QA) to digital deliverables. Even if you don’t know things inside and out, you can act as a new user and provide valuable feedback from an outside perspective.
It is a feat to get so many things right in your role. While you focus on all the right things to do, don’t forget to look at the other side and make sure that you don’t do things that can be detrimental and have a negative impact on your project and team. Self-evaluate at times to check that you are not doing any of the following:
Replace social interaction with email only
It is easy to resort to email-only communication with certain individuals after a period of time. Show up to meetings, and engage with those in charge with keeping things on track and moving along to completion. Schedule one-off meetings or unscheduled check-ins to stay in the middle of the details.
Be critical or blame
Every story has two sides. Get all of the information you can, and don’t make assumptions. Not everything is as it appears.
There is nothing worse than having a manager constantly looking over your shoulder as a professional. Allow people to do their job and report on it in time. Step in when you see an issue or suspect a schedule slip, but for the most part let people be. More junior team members may need a little more attention than a senior-level person, so use your best judgment. Yes, they are a reflection of your ability to manage a project, but remember trust here.
Be hesitant making decisions
Remain confident when making decisions. Make them after you have done due diligence and have arrived at a place you feel comfortable making a call. Document everything, so you have details to fall back on in the event you need to revisit.
Wait for things to work themselves out
Stay at the helm and in control of issues as soon as you detect them. Be prepared to make educated decisions to resolve and offer options. Things don’t always have a way of working themselves out on their own.
Point out issues and identify risks too late
Respond to potential issues right away with a plan and solution to resolution. Waiting is never good for any situation. It’s better to be prepared and ready than to be sorry and responsible for letting it slide.
The soul of project management is organization. The moment you let things slip outside of your control is the moment you can trace back to a project running off the rails. Disorganization leads to time and money spent attempting to right a wrong that could have been avoided.
Disrespect people’s time
Respect people’s time, and give them enough space to do the work that needs to be done. Set a good meeting cadence, and keep things short and to an agenda. In addition, be cognizant of time zone differences when scheduling meetings and sending emails, instant messages, or texts. No one wants to be awakened in the middle of the night with work if there isn’t an emergency.
Build Your Own Project Management Best Practices
There are a lot of great tips in this list as well as things to avoid. Take all of this information from the expert project managers and tailor it for your unique situation. Managing a team is a rewarding experience. Take the time now to build good habits and reap the rewards as a top-tier project manager.