The usual project management journey starts with initiation and ends with the closing and delivery of a project. The continuation of this cycle is raising the demand for skilled project managers across all industries and around the globe. Businesses are looking for good project managers who can use project management tools to keep all aspects of a project on track. A project manager is a distinct leadership position that requires a particular set of character traits and professional qualities.
Suppose you consider a project manager to be responsible for delivering the full scope of the projects within the pre-defined deadline and within an agreed budget. In that case, you're only considering a part of the story.
Becoming a good project manager worthy of admiration by your peers often takes more than following a certain project management methodology or framework.
This article's goal is to highlight a set of qualities you can safely pursue if you're planning to improve your professional skills as a project manager.
Setting Goals and Priorities for Projects
Not being able to work backward from a specific outcome makes planning and managing any initiative too tricky. It's essential always to have a distinct goal you're working towards by making it SMART and defining realistic milestones and frequent checkpoints. By having means to properly execute your projects, measure the progress along the way, and always keep it on track, it's much easier to know what a successful project looks like.
Maintaining The Process
Regardless of the project management methodology or framework you're using, it's essential to make sure you're applying the same process for every project you're running. This doesn't mean that you can apply the same principles to every product or service you're delivering. It means that you'll be able to optimize the operations by consistently repeating it and making it better, ultimately removing confusion and making sure the projects run smoothly every time.
Creating Realistic Estimates and Scope
It's essential to make realistic timelines and estimates. Agreeing to squeeze a six-week project in only three weeks isn't going to work well for you nor your clients. Instead, you should invest your efforts into presenting and explaining the value of taking the "additional" time.
Good Decision Making
Every big project is a myriad of small but important decisions. One of the most significant qualities of a good project manager is the ability to make good decisions whenever it's required. Excellent decision-making skills are vital both in professional and personal life, and making good decisions is often a difference between project staying on track or going entirely sideways. Even a minor error in judgment can put the entire project at risk, which means that a good project manager must be capable of quick thinking and decisive action.
Excellent Communication Skills
A good project manager can effectively communicate with all people on all levels - from team members all the way to top management. To truly call yourself a good project leader, it's essential to grasp many different facets of project communication - delegating responsibilities, explaining goals, measuring performance, setting expectations, and giving/receiving feedback.
Also, a project manager needs to be able to articulate and communicate these ideas so that every team member can quickly and easily grasp them for themselves.
Your project team will need your support every step of the way. If they request your help, help them. If they challenge your ideas and opinions, listen to them. It's delusional to look at a project manager as a person on top of a hierarchy because the team isn't working for a project manager - you're all working together. The team needs clear project goals to pursue them, and a project manager needs the team to achieve them. Therefore, it's imperative to use your leadership position to ensure everyone on your team knows how important they are and what's their take in the project outcome.
Effective project management means having a strong set of leadership qualities that motivates the project team and drives them to optimum performance towards achieving the goals.
Good project managers often work with a team of experts and are required to handle the issues in the most effective way possible.
While nobody expects you to have an answer for every issue in advance, you should have the skills and the capacity to use your team's resources to produce an effective response to any problems that unfold on your way to delivering a project.
Ideally, with a good plan and a concrete goal for everyone to work towards, you should see all your projects work out just as intended. However, we all know that's not always the case.
A cool head when under pressure
Yes, we don't live in a perfect world where all your projects are on time and within budgets. Every project has it's own set of problems and obstacles to overcome. A good project manager should be able to have an attitude and leadership to tackle these problems in stride. Leaders often consider these stressful events a challenge and an opportunity to use their skills and knowledge to influence the outcome positively. To achieve this, a good project manager must be level-headed and able to cope with stress and pressure.
For a project manager, empathy is very important. It puts you at a vantage position to understand the level of creativity or competence in handling a particular task. That helps to adjust to your level in terms of delegating duties. A good project manager will show understanding and caring for their team and openness towards helping and being helped.
You want your team to work just like a swiss clock. However, we all know that goal is often unreachable. If your team is not working in unison, the projects will often suffer from various challenges that might result in falling short of your objectives. A good project manager needs to know how to approach each team member and show them the time and the attention they require in order to focus on the positive outcome.
If you want to transform your team from a group of strangers to a single close-knit unit, you must understand the requirements for this shift. And when you do, you can start with the team building activities that will drive you towards a cohesive team.
One of the most important things any project manager should always keep in their mind is, it takes their actions to set a particular modus operandi for a team, rather than their words. Good management demands commitment and demonstration of ethical practices.
The leadership or project management depends on integrity represents a set of values, dedication to honesty, and consistency in behaviors with teammates. Integrity is that a good project manager takes responsibility for setting the high bar for ethical actions for oneself, as well as reward those who exemplify these practices. Leadership motivated by self-interest does not serve the wellbeing of a team.
Fundamentals of Agile Project Management
How to be a better project manager
Once we've covered the most important aspects of being a good project manager, you're probably asking a simple question: Where do I start and how do I become one?
Invest yourself into this journey by singling out the most important goals you wish to achieve, the most important qualities you might be lacking, and all the skills you need to polish to become better today than you were yesterday. There's no one-size-fits-all roadmap to becoming a great project manager. However, you can create your own roadmap yourself. Start with reading. Read every day. Gain an extensive overview of all the best practices and guidelines on how to achieve them, and stay up to date with every paradigm shift or new idea. And don't forget to discuss these ideas with your peers - they might nudge you in precisely the right direction. Whether you're working on your first project or have hundreds of projects under your belt, you must remain deliberate about your personal development and growth.