Are you an aspiring, new, or accidental project manager? The tips in this blog are generally focused on you, however some are more important than others for those just starting out. These 5 tips are things that I learned early as a new project manager and hope they will benefit your careers as well!
- Get in GEAR - be an active listener: Active listening is especially important for a new project manager. You need to listen to the advice of the team, the project sponsor, the stakeholders, and others. To be an good active listener, think of the acronym GEAR:
- Give verbal responses, even if just to briefly say "I see."
- Eye contact should be comfortable to both show and aide your focus
- Ask relevant questions to be sure you understand completely
- Restate and re-frame to confirm your understanding in your own words and without negativity
- Be flexible and embrace change: As a new project manager, you still have a lot to learn. It's too soon to get "set in your ways." Be flexible, listen to advice, and embrace change. Too many new project managers will "just say no" to change. What works better? Listen to the change requested carefully, work with the team to determine the impact the change will have on the project, then inform the project sponsor or client and let them make the decision. You may find this actually creates new or future opportunities for you and the team.
- Take a problem solving approach: Project rarely go completely as planned. When confronted with issues, always take a sound problem solving approach. Making a snap decision rarely leads to the right outcome and wastes time. In many instances, this leads teams to be in constant fire-fighting mode - constantly correcting the results of poor decisions. Be sure to identify multiple solutions, then weigh them carefully to choose the best.
- Build relationships beyond the team: It's often said, "it's not what you know, but who you know." This is especially true for new project managers. You and your team will not have all the answers. But if you build relationships beyond the team and your organization, you will find others that want to help you succeed. I've always had a good list of people I can call or email if I get stuck on a particular challenge. I don't expect them to solve it for me, but do ask for their advice and guidance. Sometimes that quick advice is enough to get things started. Be sure to pay it forward too - when someone asks for your help, be sure to give them the same courtesy.
- Continuously learn and improve: I've always viewed projects as opportunities for continuous improvement and learning, and that attitude has always served me well. Projects themselves are often to improve products or services. The project manager uses a form of Plan-Do-Check-Act to measure variance and guide the project weekly. And lessons learned are an opportunity for future project method improvements. And with each project, I also make is a point to learn something new. Adopt this attitude early and you will be sure to succeed.
Do you have a favorite tip that helped you as a new project manager? Be sure to share it in the comments below!
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