Project management as a discipline can be difficult to conceptualize. It combines the need for organization, process development, time tracking, and so much more into a single practice, which can take on a myriad of shapes and scopes depending on the company or the work being done.
Yet no matter the line of business, at the core of all project management initiatives is one simple truth: project management is people management. It’s about keeping a group of people proactive, productive, and profitable all while working towards accomplishing a set of predetermined goals. Understanding and accepting this early on sets any project manager up for success, because once you determine how to get the best work out of your team, you can subsequently understand how to get the best results for your project.
PartnerSolve has been taking on the role of project manager for clients across America since its conception in 2001, and in that time has had ample opportunity to perfect their approach. Follow these tips for a successful experience in “people management” this quarter.
- Rely on Open Communication
Establishing an open style of communication within your team allows for the creation of mutual respect and understanding that is often missing when a leader starts out with too firm a hand. Take the time to open this door early, as it will allow for a sense of comfort within the group for asking questions, sharing ideas, and keeping the overall flow of the project moving in a positive direction. This is not to say that you should be a total pushover when it comes to leading the team, but there’s a time and a place (which we will explore in Tip #5.)
- Get To Know the Members of Your Team on an Individual Level
While it’s true every project manager doesn’t have this luxury, taking any opportunity you can to familiarize yourself with the members that make up your project group is going to benefit you and your work in the long run. Figure out early how each person responds to feedback—for instance, who might need to be pushed vs. who needs to be more coddled—to help you get the most out of the people you are working with. If you’re lucky, establishing these kinds of one-on-one relationships within the team may also create an important sense of accountability from each member, since they will subconsciously internalize your approach and yield better results.
- Take The Time to Understand The Group Dynamics
Sure you may not think it’s your problem if your marketing and editorial teams are still on bad terms after that last project didn’t get to print on time. But unfortunately even professionals can sometimes allow tensions like this to leak into their future work, and that’s where your project could come in jeopardy. While by no means should you insert yourself into any kind of interdepartmental drama, being aware of how the different teams in the group interact is incredibly beneficial as a project manager. Allow yourself a chance to take a step back and observe the dynamic of the team from the outside, then adjust your approach to assigning tasks or creating subgroups accordingly. Your project will benefit from the effort you’ve put in to keep the environment cohesive.
- Keep All Criticism Constructive
Unless a team member has truly dropped the ball—and it does happen—do your best to ensure all criticism or suggestions come from a place of respect and overall betterment for the project. This will ensure that the team continues moving forward and addressing the issues they need to without becoming discouraged or feeling like their work is being undervalued. The more positive and constructive you can be with your team, the better their approach to the work will remain moving forward.
- Don’t Be Afraid To Put Your Foot Down
It’s true that a lot of these tips are rooted in positivity and keeping the peace as a project manager, but that’s not to say that you should be afraid to speak bluntly with your team when necessary. If deadlines aren’t being met or promises are being left unfulfilled, it’s perfectly fair to use consequences and tough love to keep everyone on track. And if you took the appropriate steps to develop a positive working relationship with the team ahead of time, they will know that this change in approach reflects the severity of the situation, and will hopefully step up and hold themselves accountable for the work they need to get done moving forward.
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