Did you know that being a project manager is just like being a superhero? Nah, I am just being facetious but as a project manager you need to maintain and balance the needs of many different stakeholders AND make sure everyone you depend on to meet your time deadlines is doing their jobs and doing it well without direct supervising/management ties to said everyone.
One of the best tools I used in my career as a Project Manager is the ability to communicate and encourage. I found communication to be key because so many people are just juggling so many different things that having a clear cut plan and communicating it effectively and efficiently were major keys to success for completing projects on time and under budget. Also, how you communicate had to be tailored to each person. See, I have always been a teacher, I guess. I became a PMP (Project Management Professional) in 2004 and an adjunct in 2003, so I have always known that people learn and respond in different ways. I was able to apply that knowledge, gained from my various students undergraduate and graduate, to my colleagues and business partners in achieving project success. I knew some people would want to read pages of documentation but most people just want highlights and only their own role information. Other people like to read about everything going on and some people detest reading and prefer verbal updates. I was able to tailor my communication plan accordingly and quickly based on my observations and my "teachers instinct". I was also able to maintain all of the information needed in one master file that I used to keep track of the various stakeholders, participants and what they were informed of and when.
It sounds tiring but it was not - in fact, it allowed me to run multi-million dollar projects and do so while keeping as many people "happy" as possible. You cannot keep everyone happy, though - especially on large, multi-national projects that crossed time zones and had meetings occurring late at night or early mornings as well as language issues. For those times, you need my second tip - encouragement. You need to be the person who jumps in and helps out whenever and however necessary. I was lucky enough to be sent to Singapore two weeks before my wedding in 2005 to help a project team formulate a project plan and more. Yes, I said two weeks before my wedding. And yes, I was the bride. But despite that or maybe because of that (see, I never wanted to get married but that is a story for another day :)), I was able to jump in and help out and that led to people being willing to jump in and help out for me, too. I gave 110% to every project and I got it back, too in tenfold or more. It was amazing and it was by being encouraging and not just from the sidelines but actually being there, being an extra set of eyes or hands and not just the "gatekeeper" but being on the field and jumping in coding or more was instrumental in helping me be a great project manager.
So much of being a project manager is being a change agent and as I have posted about that before, being the change agent is akin to being the devil. People dread change. Change is scary. But putting change into affect as seamlessly as possible with great communication and great encouragement can make it be a wonderful learning experience for all involved and can notch up your career to the next step.
What do you think about my advice? Are you a PM? Do you want to be a PM? If you are interested in finding out more about project management as a career path, check out my upcoming seminar in February at Wagner College Office of Lifelong Learning and I hope to see you there in person! Happy Hunting!
Lisa Vento Nielsen