Why do some project managers always seem to bring their projects in on time, on budget and with satisfied customers and others…well…don’t?
I’ve seen these habits get mentioned over and over again in performance appraisals and in end-of-project reviews where the client, team or sponsor is offering feedback to the project manager.
You don’t need to have 10 years of experience in order to deliver successfully every time. By changing your habits and brushing up your skills you can drastically improve the chances of your project being a success (and give yourself a less stressful time at work as well).
And in no particular order, let’s get started!
1. Using The Right Team
The most effective and successful project managers know the capabilities of their team members. This means that they can allocate the right work to the right people.
Using the wrong resource on a task can lead to it taking longer or being done badly. It really helps to know the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals working with you so that you can best allocate them to project tasks.
2) Begin with the End in Mind
In project management, as with anything, it is easy to go into analysis paralysis. When multiple people take a project, and break it down into pieces of their own real estate, it sometimes can get difficult to stay focused on the final picture. Everyone’s work must come together in the end. Egos must be set aside for the greater congruency of the overall picture. It is much easier to work together when everyone is focused on the final team outcome, not on stealing the spotlight and looking like a rock star.
3) Put First Things First
Covey says to always do your big rocks – your most impactful, important things – first. This means, you don’t allow little distractions and rabbit trails to take away your focus from the main areas in your project.
For example, if you have very important items to complete during the day, you should reduce distractions until you’ve completed your most important tasks. This may mean turning off your email notifications and text pings for the morning so that you can knock out your most pressing project assignments. You can still get to other less urgent items later, after you’ve finished your biggest daily goals. Save time for more important items, by learning to automate the tedious, draining tasks with gantt chart software.
4) Think Win / Win
Working with people together on a project is a great way to improve your team-building skills. It may mean compromising certain strategies for the greater good of all. If you win, and everyone else doesn’t, you don’t have a team but a dictatorship. In order to create the best possible outcome for your co-workers, clients, and superiors, you have to think about how your actions will impact the “wins” of others as well as yourself.
It is often more challenging to find a win / win scenario. It takes more creativity, more consideration, and more communication than some people want to invest. However, when you put forth the effort to come away with a solution that benefits everyone, you open further doorways into increased productivity, team trust, and overall project synergy.
5) Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone is talking, but no one is listening? Nothing gets accomplished this way. In some of the more frustrating meetings that I sat through, it got so bad that we had to employ the talking stick. This was basically a rule that you could only talk when you had the stick for a timed period. If you didn’t have the talking stick, you couldn’t talk. This sounds silly, but if we didn’t employ this method, no one could even get a word in. There was so much passion and a driving need to be understood, that people would just talk over everyone; which ultimately just wasted time.
This concept follows the old adage that you have two ears and only one mouth; so you should listen twice as much as you speak2. Listening is a lost art. Even when people are silent, that doesn’t mean they are really listening. To actively seek to understand something from another viewpoint means not only means hearing, but processing this information, asking clarifying questions, and then repeating the idea back to the person speaking in your own words to make sure you have it correct and let them know that you have heard them.
Once someone realizes that you are honestly engaged in trying to understand them, they will usually give you the same courtesy. There also may be someone who is less outgoing with great ideas, but who is too shy to bulldoze their way into a conversational battle. Introverts often have amazing perceptions, because they think and process information inwardly instead of talking outwardly. They often won’t voice their opinions unless they are asked. It is to the best interest of the team to give everyone equal understanding.
If you take the time to acknowledge everyone in the group, no matter what their personality type or communication style, you will glean much more useful information than you would just listening to those who like to hear themselves talk.
Synergy simply means that you can do more as a team than you can as an individual. It means that 1+1=3 or more. It is achieved in an environment of open-mindedness, acceptance, and the idea that two heads are better than one.
Some people may fear synergy at first. However, no project manager can shy away from the valuable fact that a team will produce a better outcome over the individual, no matter how impressive or knowledgeable. Sure, egos must be relinquished for the greater good; but a truly synergistic team working in total harmony will bring more success to each of its members than any one person could ever achieve.
Synergy is the hallmark of maturation. Think about a child as it grows. In infancy, it is very dependent on others. Then, the teenage years bring about the period where the child pushes away from the parents to do things alone. And, finally, as an adult, the relationship takes a new turn when the child is mature enough to recognize their limitations and ask the parents for advice.
It’s the same concept in business. When you are first hired, you are dependent on your trainer. Then, you become more independent as you learn your work. And, finally, you relinquish your pride to recognize the need to achieve even more than you are capable of independently, and embrace the importance of working syntactically with others.