Project management is an art.
You can tell a good project manager from miles away. Their team meets deadlines, there’s accountability and quality of their deliverables is top-notch.
While working with Verizon Wireless, I was exposed to some of the best project managers I’ve had the pleasure to work with. They had the most detailed spreadsheets where they kept track of meeting notes and next steps. They promptly sent follow-up emails with action items and takeaways for the team. In short, without them our complex and demanding projects would not have been possible.
You don’t need a project manager title to take a cue from these ridiculously efficient (and effective) humans but you do need a couple of critical skills to run a project smoothly:
- Time management. Especially important if you’re involved in several projects. When I have a lot to do, I make a list of everything I need to get done then prioritize the critical items. Another good practice is to plan out your schedule for the week on Friday so the time you need to complete tasks and prepare for meetings is blocked off and you can hold yourself accountable.
- Organization. It’s hard enough to keep yourself organized sometimes. Staying on top of a project means you’re also keeping track of several moving pieces. When I’m planning a campaign, I make it a point to speak to team mates about deadlines and deliverables then I make myself a note to circle back BEFORE the due date to check on progress.
- Clear and effective communication. What you say matters as much as how you say it. One of the biggest lessons we recently learned as a team is how to adapt to a new communicator. If your project lead isn’t clear, it is your responsibility to proactively seek clarification. As a project lead, I recommend giving all the information to the team (goal, deadline, specifics of the request) and then following up to make sure there are no questions.
- Running meetings. A meeting without an agenda is a waste of everyone’s time. Before you schedule a meeting, ask yourself if this could be an email. People will love you for asking yourself if it could be an email. Send out the agenda ahead of time so people can better prepare the pieces they will be speaking to (especially for bigger team meetings).
- Leading through influence. As a project manager, you are given the power to hold people accountable. As a project manager, you are given the burden of holding people accountable. It’s a tricky field to navigate when you have to ask someone “why is this late?” and trust me, it’s not fun. A better way of approaching this is (a few days before deadline) asking if there’s anything your team needs. Status meetings are also a good way of directly (but also kind of indirectly) holding the team accountable.