The great, unsung heroes of civilization are the project managers. Their position is to act as the team leader for the duration of a project, taking up all of the management load to ensure their team can focus on their individual responsibilities, and also acting as the bureaucratic bottleneck, shielding the team from higher-up interference. For every pyramid that stands today, there was a project manager whose name we will never know.
It is impossible to exaggerate what an important skill this is to project managers. It is so important that it’s worth breaking down into details:
• Clear – A good project manager can take complex ideas and explain them simply.
• Accessible – Every problem that happens is the project manager’s problem first.
• Diplomatic – Both in dealing with the higher-ups in the company and in empowering individuals within their team.
• Respectful – Being able to openly discuss challenges, roadblocks, and risks with the team, and being receptive to opinions and ideas from the team.
• Egoless – The luxury of indulging petty feelings is one that a project manager can’t afford.
Strong communication skills are almost a guarantee of a project manager’s success. This is the art form that a project manager has to devote time to refining.
Naturally, the project manager is the chief leader. The oft-attributed quote sums it up best: “Hire smart people and then get out of their way.”
• Lead by example – At no point should a team feel the project manager is separate from them.
• Building trust – A project manager makes their team feel like they’re banking the world on them, and that they can always come to the manager with issues.
• Be ready for anything – Staying flexible enough to take on any challenge.
• Build a culture of innovation – Keep a free flow of ideas and solutions going to ensure everyone’s strengths are brought to the fore.
• Delegate as much as possible – The best leader is the one who trains all of their subordinates to be leaders themselves.
Keeping detailed records, minutes, and documentation is vital. A schedule should be drafted and open to the team, so they have a realistic idea of their time scale and what’s expected of them. Keep meetings focused and the goal always in sight. Control the scope of the project, without setting the team up for failure by allowing the original goal to fall away.
There are many ways in which a project manager can fail. These include overconfidence, being inexperienced and having to fake it, passing out blame and insisting on micromanaging everything, or trying to hog the spotlight.
A project manager can avoid most of these mistakes by being transparent. Being realistic about one’s own limitations and the challenges of the task at hand can build the team’s trust, and help them to help the project manager succeed, which in turn lets them succeed.