Did you know the word MANAGEMENT is synonymous with the word DIRECTION? With each new year, every project manager should take a close look at the figurative compass of their business to ensure they are staying on the proper course. When it comes to project management, being even one degree off your path can have drastic effects over both the short and long-term.
The greatest place to start on these annual reviews is with yourself and your management skills. You’ll need to take a step back and reflect on the ways you’re managing effectively, as well as ways your leadership could be enhanced.
Every manager should be mindful of six specific skills they should constantly be trying to improve. This ultimate guide will take you through all six and provide details of how you can grow closer to your team, better manage your time, and even handle your stress. Let’s dive right in!
1. Team Management
It’s a rare thing for a project manager to work on a project alone. Typically there is a team or group of people designated to split the tasks, workload, and responsibilities involved. And whoever is assigned to lead the group will need to be well versed in managing a team properly.
It is up to the project leader to develop team management skills that will ensure success for their group including:
- A team vision
- Clear communication
- Confidence in themselves and the team
- Organizational abilities
- The ability to adapt to difficult situations
- And more
A group with an obvious mission or vision will always be working toward the same goal. If you are leading a team, make sure to clearly share this long-term objective with everyone so they know the steps needed to reach it.
Team leaders must also maintain a high level of self-confidence and do all they can to promote the same assurance with each member of their crew. The more everyone can trust themselves to accomplish their jobs properly, the more likely the project will be completed on time and within the original budget.
Another talent every team manager needs to have is the ability to stay organized. There should always be intricate systems in place to preserve order and structure during day-to-day operations. But keep in mind, even the most perfect plans can run into roadblocks, so be prepared to modify your strategies and adapt to those type of situations as they arise.
2. Time Management
Benjamin Franklin’s old adage “time is money” has been used in business conversations for centuries and is a perfect way to describe the importance of developing time management skills. The more effective you and your team are at governing your time, the better your chances of finishing a project at or under budget.
While many may think time management is nothing more than putting your head down and working hard from open to closing time, there are many other tactics which make it much more elaborate than that. The answer to managing time wisely consists of:
- Effective delegation
- Avoiding distractions
- Proper scheduling
- Setting achievable goals/deadlines
- And even taking enough breaks
One of the biggest downfalls of any project is a manager biting off more work than they can chew. It is critical to your team’s success that you be willing and able to delegate work to the best candidate for each and every task throughout the process. Use tools like Toggl Plan to distribute tasks and still maintain visibility of the workload to follow-up as needed.
In the earliest stages of planning a project, those involved should pay close attention to the schedule and timeline. Setting milestones, goals, and deadlines should be a priority during this process to ensure a sense of urgency among the team as assignments are distributed. Determine the primary intent of each step and make sure it is clearly laid out.
And while taking breaks may sound counterproductive to reaching your targets, practices like the Pomodoro Technique can majorly benefit your team’s ability to stay focused and work harder when necessary. The basic concept is to work as hard as possible for 25 minutes, followed by a short break to relax and clear your mind for a few minutes.
3. Resource Management
If time is money, then resources are what that money can buy. The idea behind establishing resource management skills is to learn the most efficient way to use assets such as:
- Company management
Every company’s most important resources are the employees who help power the machine and operations of the business. In this case, resource management is equivalent to people management. Every project manager must have a good rapport and strong work relationship with their team members to maintain a high level of professionalism within the office.
While we’ve already talked about time and money, it’s important to mention them as crucial resources to the future success within any industry. Without them, no other resource would mean anything.
And though it might sound like a bit of a stretch, even information can be counted as an asset to your project. Whether this includes confidential details, written plans, important documents, or financial records, data is a resource that could make or break your project’s final results.
4. Stress Management
A recent study conducted by the American Institute of Stress stated that nearly 80% of the nation is afflicted by some form of stress, anxiety, or depression. This means that if you are working with a team of ten people, odds are that eight of them are likely stressed about something.
Whether the cause is related to work, family, or health, these staggering numbers put into perspective the need for developing stress management skills as both a leader and as an employee. Some of the most common causes of stress in the workplace include:
- Lack of clarity for their job description
- Unrealistic goals or deadlines
- Frequent changes
- Poor leadership
The first three bullet points above tend to fall into the same bucket when it comes to finding a resolution. A lack of job transparency can lead to both a manager and an employee being unsure of their responsibilities on a daily basis. This can lead to someone either being overworked and bogged down by a colossal workload or to them being bored and feeling useless with nothing to do.
Reverting back to the importance of planning out your goals, consider the feedback and opinions of your employees when choosing the dates. They may have keen insight and a better understanding of how long someone should take to complete, leading to a more realistic timeframe.
One of the most difficult stresses to handle is that of a troublesome boss or manager. As a leader, it is your duty to make sure that you’re not a cause of anxiety amongst your peers. A great way to avoid this is with an open door policy and by requesting honest, constructive feedback.
Have you ever fallen victim to a boss that was a micromanager? They are constantly looking over your shoulder, controlling you and your work, and removing any element of freedom within your job. There has long been a negative connotation to this leadership style due to the adverse effects it has on the team.
Instead of being a micromanager, it is vital to your group’s success that you allow them all to learn self-management skills. While there will always be employees who require more observation and attention than others, everyone on the team should have a great deal of freedom when it comes to their position. This takes a lot of trust on the manager’s part but can have a significant and positive impact on how much work is actually getting done every day.
There are a handful of ways to help everyone get better at self-managing themselves. Typically the two best ways to produce results are by promoting the importance of taking the initiative and encouraging accountability.
The best way to show others how to take the initiative is to lead by example. Make a daily effort to come up with new ideas, introduce new suggestions, and create fresh concepts. When your team knows they’re allowed to be ambitious and take action, they’ll be much more likely to follow in your footsteps and do the same.
Establishing accountability is one of the easiest ways to fall into poor micromanaging habits. A great way to avoid this is by promoting accountability with their peers instead of with you, their manager. Have team members report to each other on their task progress, allowing them to improve their ability to manage themselves.
6. Project Management
We’ve come full circle back to the main point of all of this: project management skills. And while this section encompasses the previous five concepts, project management itself has a handful of aptitudes which need to be incorporated to make all the others even more effective.
A successful project manager is good at:
- Managing risk
- Monitoring costs
- Critical thinking
First and foremost, you must be a leader and your team must recognize you as such. A strong leader demands respect by showing the same amount of respect to others and has the ability to motivate their group whether things are going well or times are tough. They must be an excellent communicator so their points come across clearly and people feel comfortable speaking with them about anything.
Risk management is a critical skill for any project manager who wants to thrive in their job. The basics involve identifying potential risks, preparing for them, monitoring, and solving them as each one comes up. This is often easier said than done but when the correct process is followed, it can make projects run much more smoothly.
The final management skills you’ll need to be successful are the ability to think critically and negotiate terms with both clients and stakeholders. These are both talents that can be learned on the job, but a truly great project manager will be able to understand them quickly and use them in their everyday business life.
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Time to Put It All to Use!
Now that you have a better idea of how to manage your team, your time, your resources, your stress, and yourself, you are well on your way to becoming a more effective project manager. By putting this knowledge to use before, during, and after projects, you’ll be able to power through them with the confidence and understanding necessary to make each one victorious.
If you’d like even more insight on how to be a good manager and ways to improve your project management style, be sure to check our blog.
Logan Derrick is a full-time business writer and content marketing strategist. For years, he has worked closely with several project management professionals, learning from them and increasing his own knowledge of the industry. Having held multiple management positions in fields ranging from customer service to marketing, Logan has found a passion for helping others learn about project management, marketing, and the powerful tools available to professionals today.