Lydia Mc Williams
Have you committed to putting in the work to become the best project manager you can possibly be? Do you want to master the art of project management? If so, what skills are vital to your success? Knowing project management theory but lacking the skills to apply what you know is fruitless. Similarly, having the appropriate tools and techniques but without the skill to put them to good use is worthless. To help you on your road to success I have listed below some areas which you can focus on, reflect upon, and implement in your day to day.
The key project management leadership skill to master is making sure you’re leading, rather than managing. That means providing a vision and a road-map for success, motivating your team, serving them, coaching them, inspiring them and empowering your team to reach the destination. I had an interesting chat about leadership with my colleague Dan recently, who is currently studying a Masters in Management at Monash University (huge credit to Dan for juggling work and study like a boss). Dan likes to provide us with regular updates about his seminars (whether we want to hear it or not) and recently he told us all about Fiedler’s Model of Leadership which states that there are four types of leadership; Transactional, Transformational, Charismatic, Values-based. Check it out here to learn more.
We regularly hear that communication is key. However, we must acknowledge that understanding and being understood are just as important. Hence frequent and effective communication is essential and will in turn ensure that everyone is on the same page and that no surprises arise.
It is a project manager’s responsibility to convey the vision, ideas, goals, and issues, as well as to produce clear status reports and project presentations. Communication of project details in writing and periodic status reports are absolutely critical and status meetings and reports are also invaluable.
The more touch-points you have with someone, the more solid the relationship will be, and the more likely the project will be a success.
“I wish my project manager would stop giving me so many project updates.” – said no one, ever.
The skill to master with planning is to ensure that you are always twenty steps ahead and always know what is coming next, for success and disasters alike. Planning is all about finding ways to do all that you need to do as efficiently as possible and the extent to which you can do so will directly impact the success of the project. Hence this needs to be taken very seriously!
An experienced project manager will always have a plan B up their sleeve, and sometimes even a plan C, or plan D. During recent conversations I have had, I learned that some project managers are implementing the lean start-up methodology mentality, where you pivot when required to do so, constantly reviewing and reevaluating along the journey. It was described to me as “agile on steroids with an ability to do a 180 when required”.
After all, what is a project manager without a plan?
Prioritisation is crucial, knowing where to spend your time is essential and knowing when to say ‘no’ is a critical skill. How can you best set up your day to ensure that you hit the sweet spot between the urgent and the important? According to Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important”.
The biggest obstacle for most are meetings. The ultimate thieves of times. The best strategy to use to ensure that meetings are not robbing you of valuable hours is to always have an agenda and stick to it like glue.
Respecting other people’s time, holding yourself accountable with yours, delegating responsibilities, multi-tasking and being flexible with your own schedule will ensure the project keeps ticking along (pardon the pun).
Except for perhaps on their birthdays, project sponsors hate surprises. Having good risk management strategies up your sleeve will help you to stay on top of your project while actively mitigating risk. The secret to this is to master the skill of being able to identify risks before they become issues, and to have effective mitigation plans in place so that the risk of them developing into issues is nullified. This skill is best developed with experience so the more projects you work on the better you become at the art of managing risk. This ability will mitigate unnecessary firefighting, so that you can keep on track with that wonderful plan you have.
Project managers can find themselves negotiating with just about everyone, every day. And so a project manager has to be a damn good negotiator. Whether it is negotiating for resources from fellow project managers, negotiating for support from senior management, negotiating with third party suppliers or clients. Discussions about budgets, resource allocation, and timelines can become adversarial and counterproductive if not handled tactfully. Listening, being understanding and making others feel heard will help to find that middle ground aka that sweet spot where everyone who matters feel like they’ve won!
Subject Matter Expertise
It’s worth putting in the time to develop subject matter expertise not just for project management and your project management toolkit, but across the full project life-cycle. That means understanding how things work in strategy, service design, product design, creative conception, user experience, content development, front end development, back end development, QA, hosting, content delivery networks, SEO, analytics, CMS, social media to name but a few. If you are going to spend five or seven days being a project manager throughout your career, you may as well be an expert in it, right?
As they say, it’s not what you know, its who you know that matters most! So approach that GM, introduce yourself to that Director, attend that industry event, meet with relevant recruitment agencies (preferably with us here at Project Resource Partners!), and get your name out there in the project management game.
If you’d like to share your ideas on this topic, please reach out to me directly.
Lydia Mc Williams
Project Resource Partners
Level 29, 360 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
T +61 3 9949 8100 D +61 3 9949 8106