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Ten Tips for Being a Better Project Manager

Successful project management depends not only on what you do, but also on how you do it. A project manager's attitudes and behaviors toward people affect how they respond to that person. The ten tips here can help you win people’s support. So why not give it a little of your attention?

  • Be a “why person: Look for the reasons behind requests and actions. Understanding why helps you make sure you respond appropriately to team members, upper managers, and all other project audiences (which, in turn, increases people’s motivation and buy in)

    First, look to understand the reasons behind other people’s requests and actions; then share your findings with other people.

  • Be a “can do person: Look at all problems as challenges, and do everything you can to find ways to overcome them. Be creative, flexible, and tenacious. Keep working at the problem until you solve it.

  • Think about the big picture: Keep events in perspective. Understand where you want to go and how your plan will get you there. Recognize the effect your actions have on current and future efforts. Share your vision with other people.

  • Think in detail: Be thorough. If you don’t think through your project’s issues, who will? The more clearly you describe your intended results, the more easily people can recognize the benefits associated with your project. And the more clearly you define your intended work, the more often people will ask important and insightful questions — and believe that they can perform the work successfully.

    Clarity leads to increased personal motivation and reduced chances of mistakes.

  • Assume cautiously: Take the time to find out the facts; use assumptions only as a last resort. With every assumption comes a risk that you’re wrong. The fewer assumptions you make, the more confidence you can have in your plan.

  • View people as allies, not adversaries: Focus on common goals, not individual agendas. Making people feel comfortable encourages brainstorming, creative thinking, and the willingness to try new ideas — all of which are essential to managing a successful project. But viewing and treating people as adversaries can put them on the defensive and encourage them to become enemies.

  • Say what you mean, and mean what you say: Tell people what you want them to know, what you want them to do, and what you’ll do for them. Don’t leave these details up to their imaginations. You may think that being vague gives you more leeway, but, in reality, being vague just increases the chances for misunderstandings and mistakes.

  • Respect other people: Focus on people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. In each person on your team, find a quality that you can respect. People work harder and enjoy their work more when they’re around others who appreciate them and their efforts.

  • Acknowledge good performance: When someone does something good, tell the person, tell the person’s boss, tell other team members, and tell the person’s peers that you appreciate the effort and its results. Recognizing good performance confirms to a person the accuracy and value of his work; your praise tells a person that you appreciate his efforts, which motivates him to work with you and other team members on future projects.

    When acknowledging a person’s performance, mention the quality of the results he accomplished as well as the effort he invested. Be specific — tell the person exactly what he did or produced that you appreciate. Be sure to provide your feedback promptly — don’t wait weeks or months before recognizing someone for his hard work.

  • Be a manager and a leader: Attend to people as well as to information, processes, and systems. Create and share your vision and excitement with your team members, but don’t forget to share a sense of order and efficiency, too. Encourage people to strive for outstanding results, and provide the guidance and support to help them achieve those results.

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