What is a project manager? You’d think this is an easy question: a project manager is someone who manages projects, right? But when it comes to being a good project manager, there are certainly things which you need to make sure you’re doing to allow for smooth sailing. Aimee Kennedy, our Junior Digital Project Manager, explains some critical steps you can take.
The remit of being a project manager varies from project to project and job to job, but the thing that remains the same is your responsibility for ensuring that that project is delivered correctly, on budget and that the client is happy. The decisions you make along the way can often determine how your team sees you, how the client sees you, and how well a project is delivered – so making the right decisions is crucial.
If you’re managing a project team – or supporting one – something to make sure you’re clued up on is your team’s strengths, weaknesses and what makes them tick. Playing an employee to their strengths usually means they’ll complete things with a bit more gusto – they’ll enjoy the process and deliver better results. Knowing where they need support will allow you to see opportunities in training, and to plan projects with more time and resources if people are not 100% up to speed. Everyone has their own working habits and learning styles: whether they’re verbal or visual, learners can really impact how they absorb new information so knowing the best way to work with an individual can have a massive effect on how you work together as a team to deliver projects. Make sure you communicate.
Sit down and ask them:
• What do you think are your strengths?
• What do you think are your weaknesses or areas of improvement?
• What is the best way for you to learn?
• What is the best way of working for you?
Get your ducks in a row
Organisation is a massive thing when delivering a multitude of projects at once, with different project teams and clients. You must make sure you’re on top of what’s going on. There are many ways you can do this: there are many Project Management Systems (PMS) out there to choose from, but don’t rely solely on something else to keep you in check. Organisation is easy for some and harder for others, but there are certain actions you can take which will ensure things don’t slip through the cracks:
‘To do’ lists
Weekly project schedules
Weekly project team meetings (internal or client-facing)
Set reminders in your Outlook
Block out time in your calendar to review project efficiency and budgets
Don’t leave things to the last minute: set aside time to complete things
Teams or Zoom project chats
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Projects will have bumps in the road, specifications will change, deadlines will be moved. Don’t beat yourself up about the things which are out of your control. Project management can sometimes feel challenging if projects aren’t going how you expected, but keeping a positive attitude, and having the skills to turn a project around, shows you’re in the right job. See anything that doesn’t go smoothly as a learning experience, next time it happens you’ll be better equipped to deal with it, or even stop it from happening in the first place. Make sure you have internal and external wash-up sessions after projects are completed: this will give you and your team time to reflect on what went well, what processes or things you need to adjust, and what things you want to avoid for future projects.
Have a little faith
You’re in your role because you’re fit for the job. Have some faith in your abilities. Having confidence in yourself will ooze confidence within the team if you believe in what you’re saying and follow through to project completion. You’re not going to know everything across every department and sector: your knowledge will grow with experience and time. Do you know what your strengths and weaknesses are? Do a SWOT of yourself, even ask your team to help you – they might recognise strengths you didn’t know you had. It will help progress your expertise and, in the end, allow you to deliver projects better. And – most importantly – don’t ever be afraid to ask for help, or to train yourself in areas you need support in.
Celebrate your successes – however big or small
It can be easy to forget to take a step back and look at what you’ve achieved when there are so many projects on the go. Taking the time to really appreciate what you’ve delivered, whether that be a happy client, or an award-winning project, is very important for you and your team or department. Celebrating successes and giving yourself a pat on the back will really remind you why you love what you do and make you want to do better with every project. Make sure you have client dinners with the full team to celebrate project completions and thank your team for their hard work. It will only make you stronger and achieve great results going forward.
Being a project manager is easy: being a good project manager is the challenge.