How to be a good project manager

Most of the skills that you will need to be a good project manager are the same for being any other type of manager. I will go through these one by one to illustrate.

One of the most important skills you need to have is be able to plan. First plan then work your plans. Don’t do anything without planning first even if it is just a brief and quick plan on a piece of tissue paper. You need to put down what needs to be done, when, how, who will do it and how much it will cost.

You need to know how to put a team together. A manager’s role is to manage, not to the do the work yourself. Be very careful that you do not fall into the trap of jumping in all the time to do the work. All you will accomplish is that your workload will be so much that it will be unbearable, you will probably be so stressed and tired that the quality will be low and you will frustrate all the people around you because you are in the way. Having said that, since you will need to get others to do the work, then you must be good at picking who is the best person to do it and then coordinating them. This is not much unlike putting together a soccer team. Pick the players correctly, get the guy who knows how to dribble best to be the striker, the tough guy to be the defender etc. Then make sure they understand the play plan.

You want to make sure everyone who is affected by your project knows what’s going on and have had their say. This is very important and you need to know on a regular basis. For instance, if you were building a house don’t leave it until the house is done to touch base with the buyer. Several times along the line you need to get with them to confirm what they asked for is indeed what you’re building and to get any feedback. It also allows them to know of any issues that might crop and also really see and appreciate how things are moving along.

That said, you also need to make sure you are able to defend certain decisions you made and negotiate for approval for certain directions you want to take. You want to be able to persuade your clients or sponsors by showing them why doing things one way is better than the other, gain their confidence and support.

Another set of people you need to haggle with are suppliers. Make sure you know how things that you need are priced in the market and the usual timelines for their delivery. You might want to do some research or even ask several suppliers to give you quotes. If you don’t know what costs or turnaround times are, you will be in a weak position when negotiating with suppliers.

Keep an eye on things constantly. Write things down, don’t just keep them in your head. There are usually multiple things happening at the same time in any project so it is difficult to keep track of it all if it is not written down. This gets worse if you have multiple projects on the go. You need to do spot checks on tasks and see where they are at, if there is any progress, anything being held up.

If you find that there are indeed problems, then it’s your job to find a solution. That’s what everyone will be expecting you to do. This does not mean you are alone. You can always ask for ideas and advice from your team or anyone else. But ultimately you will have to make the decision and provide the solution and you will be the one that will wear it if the outcome is bad. Be prepared for that. The mark of a good leader is to accept responsibility when things go bad and to give credit to the team when things go well.

Be a good referee. In any project there is always the chance for differences of opinion. Sometimes it is benign and other times it can be very aggressive or anything in between those two extremes. Generally speaking, conflict can be good. It helps flush out ideas and bring out elements that people might not have considered. Other times conflicts are just posturing and turf wars. Either way, you need to take the bull by the horns and resolve conflicts. There are ways to do this and please monitor my posts for details.

Hope you found this useful. Add a comment and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

Muneer

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