One of my favorite things to do when I was a little girl was play “office.” I would set up my desk, which consisted of a legal notepad, stapler, paper clips and a pencil…everything you need to change the world. With my work station at the kitchen table and a healthy amount of apple juice in my coffee cup, I would hire one of my family members to work with me.
The charm of this little game wore off quickly for my new “employee” after they were assigned tasks and deadlines to make sure we got our very important project completed by the end of the day. Needless to say, I was clearly destined for great things. But, what my “employees” didn’t realize at the time was that I was honing my project manager skills.
Project managers are the lifeblood of any company. They walk the tightrope between team members and clients, moving strategically toward the project goal by communicating what needs to be accomplished to deliver a successful project.
As the project manager at Landslide Creative, I wanted to share a few habits that I believe make a highly effective project manager as well as a few tricks I’ve learned along the way.
1. Stay organized. Use lists to keep your team on task.
Staying organized is vital, especially if you are responsible for knowing the status of your team’s current projects. One way I stay organized is by utilizing the tools I have to create task lists for each team member.
Whether you’re using spreadsheets, a digital project management software, whiteboard, or a piece of paper, make sure you can clearly understand what the task is, when it needs to be accomplished, and can differentiate it from other projects that may overlap at a glance.
2. Be explicit. Be clear when you communicate.
If there was a natural disaster in project management, its name would be assumption. Leaving room for guessing can not only cause frustration, it can make or break a project. Err on the side of over communication and leave no stone unturned.
When it comes to gathering project details for your team, ask for specifics. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification from your clients. It is up to you to determine what they need, so get as many of the details up front as you can.
Slack (for in office communication)
3. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. View them as learning opportunities.
When I first started out as a project manager, I was so afraid of making mistakes. I would read through my emails five times before sending, review tasks over and over– but at the end of the day, I still made mistakes. No one is perfect. The true resilience of any person is proven in their ability to learn from mistakes.
There will be that bit of information you missed, the deadline that can’t be met, and something you could have prevented, BUT you’ll also learn what not to do next time. So stay positive and keep planning your little heart out.
4. Get techie. Use digital project management tools.
I’m a sucker for a good planner, but it’s important to have a system in place that can be accessed by all of your team members at any given time.
There are positives and negatives for each project management software, however I have found the most flexibility in Asana. If you want to take the next step and get your team organized, try Asana out. You’ll have the ability to create separate projects, project timelines, track workflow, assign tasks and more.
5. Create templates. Log FAQs and project specs for future use.
If you’re anything like me, you want to provide as much information as you can up front for your team and clients. Save time by creating project templates in Asana, questionnaires, templated email messages, and timelines you can repurpose.
I’ve found that having a virtual archive of these types of templates cuts down response time, allows me to set up new projects quickly, and helps create a sense of consistency in our company workflow process.
6. Be Flexible. Refusing to adapt can cause you to snap.
I have always been a Type-A person. I like to have my “ducks in a row”, anticipate the needs of others, and PLAN. However, practicing flexibility with your plans allows you to accept change and grow.
Project managers can’t always follow plans to the letter of the law, there are just too many variables between team members and clients. Accept that plans will change, adapt, and move on.
7. Understand Dynamics. Everyone matters.
The beauty of teamwork is that everyone carries a little bit of the weight to accomplish one goal. Each person on your team is unique and important. As you manage your team’s projects, remember every team member works differently. Be open to adapting your plan to accommodate the way they work best.
So, there you have it. Just a few things I’ve learned, used, tested, and found helpful along the way. If you want to brainstorm how to plan for your next big project or just grab a cup of apple juice and talk shop, feel free to get in touch.