I’m so glad to see you here because I want to discuss how to be a good project manager. Or how to become a better project manager.
So I’ll share some tips and my observations from my nine years of practical experience as a PM in the software industry.
Okay, first of all, and it’s one of the most important things that I am going to tell you today:
1. You Must be a Leader, Not a Manager
(Even if your title says that you are a project manager.)
You must have heard this, but what does it mean in practice?
What should you do with it?
So I think that you, as a PM, should not enforce any decisions or manage the work.
You need to set a vision of the working environment in which people will be happy to perform the tasks you need.
In essence, it means that you set expectations and provide guidelines to the final results that you want to get from the work of these people.
You give them enough space to put their ideas into the work you ask them to do.
On the other hand, as a leader, you need to communicate clearly why you care so much about finishing the project successfully.
Why should people care as much as you do? Why should they work harder to finish it successfully?
And you should be self-aware about this WHY:
Is it your goal, or is it their goal to finish the project successfully?
Because if it’s your goal that you are trying to force them to pursue, they’ll not commit.
Moreover, it should be a common goal for the whole team, not for some individuals.
If you set the challenging tasks to the entire team while they are pursuing only the personal goals of a few, they will not commit as well.
Lastly, you should put your team above the clients’ needs.
It means that when you challenge your team to do some tasks, again, consider whether you’re pursuing their goals or an excessive client’s goal.
Let’s move on to the second point:
2. Put Human Interaction Above Processes or Workflows.
Yes, it comes from agile frameworks.
The idea is simple
If you can avoid formalizing the process or the workflow, and use common sense and communication interaction on a personal level, go for it.
Well, because it’s people who spin the wheels and gears of your project management approach.
It’s not your tools, documents, or processes, it’s people.
Okay, think about this for a moment:
From theory, project management is quite straightforward, scriptable, and actually can be automated.
Robots can substitute project managers. But it doesn’t happen.
People push the project forth.
And to push people further, you need to build relationships.
Because human beings crave relationships, and there’s no script for that.
Project management is based on motivating others and negotiating with them so that they do some specific work.
You, as a PM, help them to collaborate. And no document or described process will ever substitute this facilitation.
Okay, let’s move on to the next point…
3. You Should be Proficient in Project Management Approaches
You, as a project manager, have a particular role here:
You manage and organize people to do the work.
So the primary expectation from team members is that you know what to do and how to do it in every moment of a project.
But be careful here!
Again, I’ll repeat it:
You need to display confidence in what to do, when to do, with given people, and on assigned projects.
Think about project management as a toolbox, and there are tools for different tasks.
Therefore, the more tools you master, the more tasks you can complete successfully.
4. Display Your Professional Development
As you may know, helping others to build a career or help them do their work better is one of the best motivational techniques.
It requires some professional development from your team members, which means they need to:
- Learn something new
- Achieve some results
- Finish projects successfully
But you need to lead by example to make this powerful technique to work.
It means that you need to show how to develop your own career.
In means that you need to display that you do learn something new by getting new certifications, going to trainings, conferences, and so on.
People need to see this.
5. A Good PM Shares Expert Knowledge
Share your expertise with your team members.
If you have one year of practical experience, you already know more than a person who doesn’t have management experience.
Likewise, if you have two years of experience, you know more than a person who has only one year of experience as a PM.
What does it mean?
From one side, your team members have zero experience in project management. You can teach them all the things that you know.
On the other hand, many other junior project managers have less experience than you do, and you can share your knowledge with them.
Here’s the best way to position yourself as a leader:
Provide lectures to your team members and other project managers in your company.
Just choose one topic where you have practical experience, and for sure, you’ll find someone who will want to learn this from you.
6. A Good Project Manager Knows How to Say, “I don’t know.”
It’s in contrast to what we just discussed with you with the previous points.
But you should know how to say, “I don’t know,” or at least, “I don’t know at this moment.”
It’s terrible when you position yourself as an I-know-it-all person.
But it’s even worse when you position yourself as an I-know-it-all person and make mistakes.
You are an expert in project management.
You’re NOT an expert in industry-specific questions. You’re NOT a technical expert. You’re NOT the person who knows how to make estimates the best for the given task.
As a project manager and as a leader, you use the expertise of your team. They provide all the knowledge in the subject matter.
Therefore, you should be comfortable saying:
“I don’t know, I need to consult with my team.”
“I don’t know, I’ll find someone who will know it for sure.”
And believe me:
Your clients and customers will respect you more if you say, “I don’t know” and will come back with exceptional results.
Rather than saying, “I know it!” and then failing to deliver.
7. You Should be Available to Solve Problems
I told it in point number one, remember?
You should position your team above the clients’ needs.
So, first of all, you need to be aware of the problems that the team has.
You either need to be co-located with them. You need to listen to the problems that they talk about while they do the work.
OR you need to have regular one-on-one meetings with each team member. Or at least with key team members on your team.
All in all, you should be a part of the team which means their problems should be your problems.
You should put effort into solving them.
8. Learn the Processes and Policies of the Company
Policies and processes in the company are the hygiene factor as to Herzberg’s theory.
It means if they are not clear and transparent, they can become a demotivator.
So to be a good project manager, you need to simplify the interaction between your team members and the company they work in.
For example, here are the processes that you want to focus on:
- How to get a promotion
- How to get benefits
- How to get training
- How to reduce administrative errors
You don’t do this for them, but you do provide support and consulting.
You may set reminders and explain all these policies so that they are clear and transparent.
9. You Should Protect Your Team from Distractions
Okay, I believe you already know about this, but I want to specifically point out one thing:
You as a project manager is the source of distraction as well.
So what can you do?
First of all, you can reduce the number of meetings that people need to participate in.
Likewise, you can select some people from your team who are comfortable with meetings and put them into a team leader’s position to cover all this communication.
Then, you should set priorities on what needs to be done first, second, and third.
A person on your team should always have a few days’ worth of work without interacting with you.
Also, you should not change directions too often, and the person should be able to finish one piece of work before starting another.
I’m sure you got the point.
Two practical takeaways here are:
- Remove unnecessary meetings
- Set clear priorities and expectations for the next few days of work for each person.
10. Don’t Communicate More. Communicate Efficiently.
You have already heard about the statistics that:
A project manager spends 90% of their time communicating.
That’s cool, but it’s bullshit.
Yes, project managers communicate a lot, but only because they communicate inefficiently,
My experience shows that you can manage a team and stakeholders with only two meetings per day.
If you want to learn how to do this, I recommend you to watch my series called “A Day in the Life of a Project Manager.”
Also, I recommend an article on how to write efficient emails in project management.
If you want to become a better project manager, think hard about how you can then make your communication more efficient.
This way, you don’t need to communicate more or over-communicate.
And finally, point number 11, and it’s a kind of summary of everything that we talked about.
11. Delegate Everything You Can
There are only three things that you cannot delegate:
- A project management approach
Everything else should go to your team members.
To be a great leader, you need to make your team feel like you are just the guide.
They do all the work. They make all the decisions, and they have ownership over the product or service that they do.
And yes, it means that all fame and glory go to your team members.
You don’t take any credit for the work you do.
But in the long run, your team members will understand who is behind their success and share the glory.
Do You Have Tips on How to Be a Good Project Manager?
These are my 11 tips on how to be a good project manager, which comes from my practical experience.
If you have other suggestions, do share them in the comments below, I would appreciate it a lot.