As a project manager your job is simple. Finish on time, on budget with a minimum of problems. At least it’s simple from the perspective of your boss who just wants results. You’re responsible for those results. You’ll face a mountain of details and decisions from task scheduling, resources, budgets and risk analysis to changing expectations. You can’t do it alone. You’ll need a team and your success largely depends on how the team performs. Your leadership ability can be the difference between delivering the project and having a long, painful meeting with your boss to explain why you didn’t.
Leaders can extract the best from each member, meshing disparate personalities and skills.Here are five behaviors for leaders in any project or situation:
A successful leader has a vision for the project and the role of each team member. More importantly the vision is clearly communicated to everyone. Often project managers use written outlines of members’ duties and responsibilities. Consider compiling another document with more personal details about the team. It should cover the roles of each member along with those of the overall team, bios of the team and personal anecdotes. Use it to track performance on each assignment, each member’s contribution to the project and to rate each member.
You need to craft a plan to ensure constant communication is followed from the start. Take advantage of any tool available, including Facebook, video conferencing, Twitter and other social networking. Also create a place everyone can access for posting notes, documents and tracking communications. Make sure that all guidelines are clearly communicated from the very start of a project. Help team members meet goals by tracking their progress throughout the process. Tracking results will help you make adjustments if things go wrong. Communication will help the entire team make deadlines, which will build trust with the stakeholders.
A good project manager constantly absorbs lessons from past projects, yours and those of others. Remembering what worked or didn’t in the past is cumulative, letting you avoid pitfalls you’ve seen before. You should ask questions and remain open for new ideas. Don’t just repeat behaviors because it was the way things were done in the past. Embrace your curiosity and try out new methods. The more knowledge you store, the more you’ll become the manager everyone turns to for guidance to solve problems and handle future projects.
Exemplify the qualities you expect in your team. Being a leader is about more than just barking orders and following through with deadlines. When you want your team to complete tasks, do what they say they will, be responsible and accountable, you should do the same. Be the type of leader you’d follow and you’ll win the confidence of your team as they rise to your expectations.
As a project progresses, you’ll need to mold your team into a unified entity with a common goal. Learn the abilities and personality of each member, applying a leadership style tailored to each. This enables you to capitalize on a member’s strengths in the proper situation. Though the project’s outcome is ultimately your responsibility, your success depends on your team’s performance. A solid structure, sound communication, relentless learning, being an example and forging a solid team can make you the leader of a successful project, transforming you into the manager for the next successful project and the one after that.
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Image Credit: Scott Maxwell
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