Managing a productive team is an art form. It requires leadership skills and people skills. It’s a union of book smarts and street smarts. It’s the ability to be the hero while making sure the credit is passed on to your team so they feel like heroes.
While this subject is already well-covered in blogs, seminars, and books, we consulted a team of experts to share these small, but sharp insights:
Tend your flock
If your team is scared, there’s probably a good reason. Good project managers listen to their teams’ concerns. If they feel the deadline is unreachable, a roadblock prevents completion, or they’re heading for disaster, you should find out as soon as possible. Keep an open-door policy and prioritize communication to head off problems as soon as possible.
Whisper to be heard louder
There are forceful, overbearing project managers out there, and if their projects succeed, it was in spite of the manager, not because of them. Learning how to give orders so they don’t sound like orders is an important skill. Suggest rather than command. Lead your team members to have your ideas for you and then congratulate them. Delegate your leadership to the team. Make them believe that you look up to them.
Halos give headaches
Nobody is perfect. Being a project manager is one of the highest-pressure positions around. You will win your team’s trust, faith, and confidence not by pretending to be perfect, but by admitting to your flaws, faults, and mistakes. Promote honesty and trust within the team, starting with yourself. You would rather be an underdog manager who “miraculously” pulled off a win than a super-manager who failed.
Catch as many butterflies as you can
The moments of serendipity during a project are the memorable ones that make the project succeed. The “iffy” idea from the left-field thinker that turned out to work. The lucky deadline break that gave you some breathing room. The sudden mid-project goal change that actually turned out to be an opportunity. What all these moments have in common is a manager who stayed flexible enough to take advantage of the lucky breaks when they happen. Watch your Gantt chart and focus on the goal, but don’t be so rigid that you’ll miss unexpected opportunities.
Know your fire escapes
As bad as a situation can get, nothing can make it worse like reporting it to your superior only to see them go to pieces. Good project managers have a back-up plan B, and even a plan C, for everything. When setbacks happen, your team will have faith in you for calmly saying, “In that case, I was thinking we should…”
The wisest business moguls always live by the axiom: “Hire smart people, and then get out of their way.” The credit should always go to the team. You can be available, you can lead meetings and keep the project focused, you can step in to handle crises as they pop up, but in the end, it’s the delegation you meted out that counts.