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How to Be a Great Project Manager

The best project managers recognize the building blocks of the project. They understand the scope of the project, set and meet deadlines, stay within budget, and communicate well. A truly great project manager does this every time while supporting their team and the client. 

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Chris Vo, Senior Consultant at TANGRAM looks at ways to improve your ability to manage projects and teams successfully and grow into a great project manager.

The hidden ingredient, though, is not simply getting the project straight, it’s managing the people and personalities. The ability to influence, inspire and guide team members is what separates great project managers from good project managers. Ask any decent project manager, and they will give remarkably similar answers.

“Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating the talents of those who work for us and pointing them toward a certain goal.” – Walt Disney

Qualities of Effective Project Managers

Writing on the 99u Website, David C. Baker lists his top 10 characteristics of the best project managers. He rightly states that it is all about being an influential leader, inspiring your workforce to be better at their jobs. Among his most valuable traits are the ability to listen, influence, and set achievable tasks that at the same time challenge individuals. 

Challenging your staff can be quite a balancing act at times. You must judge what they can handle. Most people can do more than they think, but it takes a good judge not to overwhelm them. A guiding hand will bring out the best in people. 

No matter your experience in project management, everyone can still learn. These tips will help you recognize the areas in which you can improve. You will lead your team better while maintaining their respect. You will get more out of them and get rewarded, both financially and emotionally. 

Best Listeners Build the Best Teams of Communicators​

Let’s face it, being a good communicator is paramount in the advertising industry. To develop your team’s communication skills, you must listen. As their confidence in your ability to hear them flourishes, they will become more confident and effective. 

As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other peoples ideas are often better than your own.” – Amy Poehler

Always ensure your team knows that your door is always open. Make conversation a two-way street. If they see that you can share your concerns, they will share theirs. 

Always listen, it is often all too easy to get distracted and simply not hear what your people are saying. Listening is not necessarily the easiest trait to have. It is important not just to listen, but to make sure that the person to whom you are communicating, sees that you are listening. 

How irritating is it when speaking to someone to have them gazing around the room or looking past you? A great example of a good listener is Bill Clinton. When he was President, he was famous for making people feel like they were the most important person in the room when speaking to him. 

Employ Regular Team Meetings

Of course, in these days of COVID uncertainty, most of these meetings will be held online. This is simply just the way of the world at the moment. Regular meetings are useful for the exchange of information, planning, feedback, and sharing any concerns. Always ensure that nobody is left out of the meet-ups. This is especially important when celebrating your successes. 

When instigating a meeting, always send out the agenda in advance. This informs your workforce of the time etc. but also as to the topics to be discussed. They can then add anything that they wish to see on the agenda. 

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Employ Regular Team Meetings. Photo: Leon on Unsplash

Inspire by Enthusiasm

To inspire your team, they need to respect you. By far the best way to do this is to show genuine enthusiasm for your projects. A great project manager will always show enthusiasm and excitement for his or her projects. Make work more interesting, roll up your sleeves, and get stuck in. 

Your people don’t want their leaders to be someone hidden away behind a computer screen barking orders. They want someone who, as well as leading their team, is part of it.

Emotional Intelligence​

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.” – Help Guide.

The positive effects of emotional intelligence are well documented. An article by the Project Management Institute states the benefits to be many and varied. Neuroscience has shown that reason and emotions are meant to be used together. A low emotional intelligence equates to poor performance and a lifetime of middle management. Those with high emotional intelligence are the real high fliers and are destined for senior management. 

A good way of looking at emotional intelligence is to see your team as your family. It seems obvious within a family that feelings and troubles are shared. Employ the same logic to your team and you will see rapid developments. Richard Branson is just one highly successful entrepreneur who advocates this philosophy. 

Always Share Successes

Everyone loves a winner, and everyone wants to be part of a success story. As a great project manager, you have the power to enable people to be part of something special. Remember, you didn’t get where you are today without help. Now is the time to pay it back. By sharing success with your people, you will build a respectful and respected team.

Tell them of past failings that helped you become the person that you are today. Motivated people are not fearful of failure. That is how we all learn. By making your team feel at ease with your past, they will become better risk-takers. By sharing past failures, you can minimize future risks, while developing a dynamic, educated risk-taking team of driven individuals. 

A good team should consist of different types of people. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. By recognizing their strengths, you can iron out collective weaknesses and build a team with unique skill sets, blended in a truly outstanding group of people. 

You can encourage this by organizing skill-sharing workshops. People can learn from each other and strengthen areas in which they feel a little lacking. I guarantee you will learn a trick or two as well. 

Recognize Individual Achievements

As your team members show their strengths, recognize them, publicly. Developing an environment of both professional etiquette and personal pride is the hallmark of any great project manager. We all like to be valued, and whether it be a shout out to a team member in an email, a thank you in a meeting or passing on some positive client feedback, all these little things add up. Increasing an individual team member’s sense of value and purpose, and also building team morale.  

Adopt a holistic approach when looking at your agency team members. If the whole team is pulling together, then the problems for individuals diminish. Be honest with yourself and your team. No matter how good we all do, there is always room for improvement. By adopting the points raised in this article you will become a truly great project manager, improve your team, and grow your business

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Recognize Individual Achievements. Photo: krakenimages on Unsplash

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Helen Johnson
+61 404 458 797


Christian Arpe-Hansen
+45 31 36 66 03