November 8, 2018
The best tips and tricks for first-time project managers
When you work in an organization, you most likely perform tasks as a team. No successful company is run solely by one person. It is generally the accomplishments by a well-performing team that creates success for a company.
Now, as a Project Manager, you will be managing both the projects and the team in your organization. It is your responsibility to lead the team to complete projects successfully and help the business move forward.
Since you stumpled upon this article, there is a chance that you might be new to project management or uncertain about the skills required for this job. But, your company probably expects you to deliver right away and be on top of your game.
The executives will expect results from you and the team will look to you for guidance in the tasks they need to do.
In addition to managing your project team, you probably also have to keep track of organizational goals, budgets and different time frames for project completions. So, if being a first-time project manager seems a little overwhelming to you, here are some of the best tips to help you sail through the sea of project management.
Strengthen basic skills
As you start working as a Project Manager, you are assigned some very demanding tasks. You have to make sure that projects are done on time, within a specific budget, with the highest quality and that everyone in the team is performing well and feeling well.
So, before you start, make sure you have strengthened your basic project management skills.
- Take your communication skills up a notch. Communication is key, so make sure you know how to reach team members in the best way – either by chat, email or talking in person.
- Keep organized and be prepared with all your documents. You can use a software like Soda PDF, which makes it easy to make documents, create PDF’s and then share them with your team.
- Be decisive, lead by example, and win over your peers.
The web is full of resources that can help you improve your skillset. Whether you need help with communication, learning how to be organized or how to lead by example and influence a team, you can find it all online.
Youtube is a great place for learning and it’s free! This is just one channel for learning project management skills, but make sure you leverage every resource at your disposal to hone your skills.
Perfect communication skills
Strong and effective communication is one of the key skills for a Project Manager.
Whether you are working on a small project or a big project with several stakeholders, you will have to communicate every aspect properly both internally and externally. If this is done correctly you can create coherency and tasks will be accomplished more seamlessly.
Start with highlighting what you expect from your team and stakeholders. Discuss possible challenges and roadblocks, listen to their opinions, and then tell them about your thoughts and the required actions.
In case your communication is ineffective, your team will not get along with the requirements and it may cause issues in the project or even a complete failure. Moreover, team productivity can decrease and can have a bad effect on the overall profits as well. But you can avoid this by mastering your communication.
Focus on the client
Another important role as a project manager is to work according to the client and add value to their business. This is the case, if you are working on a project for an external client.
The process starts with listening to them, assessing their needs, and questioning what they want.
Once you know what your client wants, use your team’s skills and then deliver them the best result. If the client appreciates what you do, you’ll know you have the opportunity to build a long-term relationship and get recurring business. And isn’t that we really want?
It’s important to remember the significance of repeat business. It provides a more stable economic situation. Furthermore, your team will always be at ease working for a familiar client. Working for a familiar client will also most likely produce productivity, as you know the client’s needs.
That is worth taking into consideration!
As you are assigned projects, bring up the question “what is the date for completion?”. It is very important that you know when the deadline is.
When you plan the project, keep the deadline in mind at all time. You can have some flexibility on how you use your time on the project, but you will need to adhere to the deadline at all times. No late projects will be accepted by anyone.
Just remember, although deadlines are fixed, there’s always a chance of mishaps. Your team member might have to take a leave right before the due date or you might have an emergency to tackle. If you have planned correctly for reaching the deadline, these issues can be mitigated as much as possible.
So, understand the importance deadlines, keep the schedules flexible, and make sure you stay well within the deadlines. In case you are using overtime hours on it, be sure to measure the time spent on it according to the budget.
Take responsibility without being authoritative
Authoritarian leaders generally tend to take control over the team and demand unquestioning support over the policies and procedures for managing a project. However, this style of leadership tends to affect creativity and makes the work rigid.
Although being authoritarian may get the work done, it may impair the morale of the team, cause dissatisfaction, eliminate innovation and cause a mediocre result.
There is no denying that you are responsible for the success or failure of a project, as you are the Project Manager. But don’t fall into the trap if thinking you own every aspect of it. Team members can be of great value if they are given a little freedom in their work.
Develop a preliminary plan
Before you start working on the project, assemble all necessary steps into a plan. Create a sequence of all the steps and arrange them in the following series of questions:
- What should happen first?
- What is the next step in the project’s process?
- Are there any steps that can be done simultaneously to increase efficiency?
- Which team member is going to execute what step?
- How long will it take?
Once you know the requirements, allocate each of the team members the outlined steps and get started working on the project.
You should share this plan with team members as well. This will increase project understanding of the whole team and everyone will know what needs to be done.
The transparency will be very benefitting to you as a Project Manager and save you time from answering time consuming questions about the process of the project.
Stop micro managing
As a Project Manager, avoid getting into the nitty gritty details of work. Let your team work with the best of their abilities, while you concentrate on how they perform and execute the entire project.
If you get into the details of each task, there is a chance that you might end up completing the task yourself. It may be tempting to get the tasks done on your own when a deadline is coming up, but your work is to be ‘managing the project,’ not to ‘make it all yourself’.
Have trust in your team’s skills to finish each aspect of the project, while you keep a birds-eye view of the big perspective.
Find a mentor
If you want to find out the tricks of the trade, forge a relationship with an experienced mentor that can assist you with various facets of your career.
Experienced Project Managers perform who perform at their best and can provide you with great tips and help you when things seem to wrong.
Learn to delegate
Regardless of the type of project, you want it to turn out right either way.
You might start with micromanaging and controlling every part of it, but this is not how it should work.
Instead, start with delegating the tasks to your team members. Assign the tasks to them, ask if they understand the task or need any help, give them a deadline and place enough trust on them, so that they can work efficiently.
It might seem like a bit of a risk to take in the beginning. But as you go on, the results will speak for themselves and you will ultimately have faith in the team and their capabilities.
Moreover, this approach will boost your team’s morale, enhance their productivity and will inspire them to become better as well.
Monitor success and failures regularly
Your work does not finish when you have delegated the tasks. It actually really starts from there.
Start monitoring the development of each task. There is always a risk that the progress is slow at the beginning, but make sure you know what everyone is doing. Walk your team through the tasks, catch their mistakes, help them out when problems occur and witness your project getting completed within the deadline.
If you want to take the administrative work out of monitoring project progression, you can use efficient project management tools. Trello is probably the most well-known and provides a clear overview of how each task is progressing. Another tool is TimeOn, which shows if you are spending too much time or too little time on your projects. So, if they are within their budget.
As a new Project Manager, you have to win over the trust of your team and you also have to encourage them.
One of the easiest ways to get along with your team is by recognizing their achievements and rewarding them for their efforts.
If you recognize them publically, they will gain enough confidence and motivation to contribute to the overall success of your organization. Another way to recognize achievements is through bonuses and small material rewards – even a piece of nice cake can spark morality and encouragement.
If a team member gets motivated by your recognitions, there is a big chance they will motivate others as well. This is even more powerful than you just motivating each team member.
Keep everyone informed
As you will be working with various team members and stakeholders, keep each of them informed of the progress along the way. Let them know the successes and failures as you complete each milestone.
Keep them aware of the changes, if anything happens, and make sure you keep them pre-informed or tell them as far ahead as you can.
You work as a project manager now and you will have to ensure that everyone on the team is aware of what is going with the project.
Don’t be afraid of failures
There are times when you fail because you can’t deliver what is required. Or maybe your team does not work according to you or your methods.
But you need to ensure that you aren’t afraid of these failures. Instead, accept them and learn from them. They are the building blocks of your success and will also make you better in new challenges of your job role.
Take them as learning opportunities and gain as much experience as you can from them. After all, there is no skill, hack or a tactic that can beat your personal experience.
Getting great at project management
Project management is rarely taught in any school and in fact you really don’t need a formal education to be great at it. All you need is to lead a project with proper initiative and apply the tips and logic of project management in every decision you make.
So, hone in on the necessary project management skillset, maximize the available resources you have and use all of the above-mentioned tips. Furthermore, get some valuable experiences under your belt and learn from every situation you get into. In no time you will gain success in the world of project management.