7 Ways to Be a Better Project Manager When You Aren’t One

Upcoming demographic shifts mean that the majority of people in the workforce will soon be those who grew up using social tools to communicate and engage with each other.  As a result of their input, a new collaborative workplace is emerging, transforming the way work is done and the employee skills that are required.  As part of the expert webinar series that kicks off October 22 with Jacob Morgan, co-founder of Chess Media Group, Forbes.com contributor and “future of work” authority, we’ll discuss how employees need to adapt in order to be successful in this new collaborative environment. One aspect of that change is “Everyone must develop some basic project management skills.” Here are seven OTHER ways the non-professional Project Manager can become a better manager of projects.

Be Mr. or Ms. Fix It

Just because your title doesn’t involve the phrase “project manager” doesn’t mean you can’t become one.  If you see something that’s broken, take the initiative to fix it.  Develop a realistic plan to solve your team’s most pressing problems and gather influential people and internal resources around you to make things happen.  Most people cannot resist someone with enthusiasm and your positive energy will snowball.

Understand What the Project Is

This one sounds obvious, but the best PMs have a solid handle on why they are doing a project, who they are doing the project for, the resources that will be required, and the timeline from initiation to completion.  They push back if senior leadership establishes a deadline that is unrealistic and doesn’t allow for the inevitable unforeseen delays, and before proceeding, they make sure that everyone involved is on the same page regarding the business rationale, budget, and success metrics.

Be Compulsively Organized

Collaboration software was developed for the purpose of keeping your team’s responsibilities and work product streamlined and easy to consult and follow.  However, the software won’t do your whole job for you.  Use its features wisely to communicate next steps and action items after a meeting, keep track of the details and status of each task, and establish relationships between project aspects (i.e. if component A slips, then component B will slip as well). Consider opening access to external clients and partners as well as your internal team.

Don’t Let Them Coast

Set clear expectations ahead of project start and hold your team members accountable for specific deliverables and outcomes.  As you assign tasks, think about each person’s development areas and devise ways to challenge them and keep them on their toes. Your team will be more motivated and productive if members are stretched and able to actively contribute to both individual and team goals.

Be Assertive

Nothing is worse than a project manager who is passive and merely sits back and hopes a problem will disappear.  The moment you become aware of a critical issue is the moment you should address it.  Before things get out of hand, speak with all of the parties involved and encourage an honest and direct conversation.  Those first few minutes might be awkward, but your end result will thank you.  Also, think about the best way to approach each team member to get the information you need and go that route.  For instance, some people will never read a status report or pay attention to alert messages, and you will simply need to pick up the phone and call them.

Macromanage Instead of Micromanage

You know the old saying:  “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime?” Effective project managers understand that a team cannot be productive unless each member has the ability to work autonomously.  Once you set the course, give your people the freedom to make decisions in their area of responsibility, and don’t second-guess those decisions unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Always Have Their Back

Make it clear to your team that mistakes are not only tolerated but encouraged.  Facilitate an environment of open communication and let your people know that your door (virtual or physical) is always open. Failures and setbacks are inevitable, but don’t play the blame game and take responsibility for your own role as a team leader.  Support your team members when going head-to-head with others so that they will trust and respect you.















Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people find meaningful jobs - quickly and simply - and to succeed beyond measure once they get there. Follow her @alevit.

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