One of the most challenging aspects of managing a project is leading the team. You can have a detailed plan in place, but it will still fall apart if you’re unable to effectively keep your team on track, productive, and motivated. What sets successful project managers apart from the rest are the particular leadership qualities they possess and the specific actions they take.
1. Build a Star Team
At the very beginning, you need to gather the right individuals to bring your project to fruition. In addition to employees and freelancers working on your project directly, this includes the executives at your company and other stakeholders who can provide insights to ensure you’re setting the right objectives.
2. Lead Rather Than Micromanage
Although your title includes the word manager, the top project managers are leaders. Give your team members the freedom to carry out their work to the best of their abilities — the reason they’re on the team is because you believe they’re the best people for the job. You need to be able to trust team members to know what the project needs and guide them in the right direction to ensure they’re able to shine.
A big part of leadership is knowing how to communicate effectively. At its most basic, this means explaining what exactly you need from your team. You must find a middle ground between being too specific and being too vague. It’s important that team members are able to be creative, but you don’t want them to veer too far from requirements and end up needing to redo work.
In addition, you need to enable communication between team members. This will likely mean encouraging your team to use communication tools, arranging regular check-ins, and setting up a hierarchy to ensure everyone knows who to report to for each activity. Using project management software is invaluable, as this will enable everyone involved to see overall progress on the project and find shared files in the cloud.
4. Facilitate Collaboration
Related (although separate) from communication is collaboration. This is particularly challenging when your team is spread out across various locations — although it’s certainly possible to collaborate just as well remotely as in person.
One of the first things to do is find channels your team members feel comfortable using, whether that’s through text, video chat, or phone calls. Plus, to keep everyone motivated and involved, it must be clear to team members why collaboration is important to the outcome of the project.
5. Appropriate Scheduling
It’s critical to know (to a great degree of accuracy) how long each task in the project is likely to take. Having unreasonable expectations for your team members can lead to conflict and missed deadlines that set your project back. You’ll also need to take into account when you’re able to start certain activities, as many will require completion of an earlier task.
6. Time Management
You expect your team members to meet the deadlines you set — this means leading by example. If you say you’ll have a piece of information by a certain date or time, you must fulfill this promise. In addition, you should be available during business hours to resolve doubts and answer questions. By paying attention to your own time management, you’ll help others with theirs.
7. Assess Risks
All projects involve some risks. You’ll be best equipped to lead your team if you’ve anticipated issues. This will enable you to both mitigate risk and know what action to take if a problem does arise. The risk assessment should involve the entire team to give everyone a chance to be heard and strategize together.
If you do run into trouble, it will be up to you as project manager to stay positive and lead your team through the difficulties. Maintaining a positive attitude will show team members you believe it is possible to overcome problems, which, in turn, will give them confidence. It’s important to note here that your positivity needs to be genuine — your team members will know if you’re putting on an act. To inspire, you need to be truly committed to the project.
9. Recognition for Team Members
Top project managers never take all the credit themselves — they recognize the hard work of everyone involved. Recognition could be as simple as a team-wide announcement of thanks or it could be a full celebration when you achieve a major milestone, including the completion of the project.
You may also like to reward particular team members who prove to be indispensable. Letting team members know about rewards for great work may make them more committed to seeing a great outcome.
It’s critical to be accurate with your budget for the project. Underestimating to please stakeholders will backfire if you’re unable to complete the project. Furthermore, you need to ensure you allocate your budget correctly and that team members spend funds appropriately. Otherwise, you may end up going over budget on some activities.
11. Choose a Leadership Style
Successful project managers think about their own leadership traits, the requirements of the project, and the personalities of those on the team to choose an appropriate style of leadership. There are several leadership styles to choose from.
A particularly effective style of leadership is democratic. All team members have a chance to voice their thoughts, meaning everyone feels heard. An example of some democratic leaders in business are Jack Dorsey and the other founders of Twitter.
On the flip side, you have autocratic leadership where the manager takes all the decisions. This is rarely effective — although not never. For instance, it can be appropriate if you are managing people who have no experience and need a large amount of guidance, especially if you have no time to spare when making decisions.
If your team is made up of young, inexperienced professionals who have great potential, coaching leadership could be a much better solution. This style involves showing team members they’re headed in the right direction and encouraging them to achieve more.
If you are the owner of the business and you have a vision for your project, it may be tempting to choose authoritative leadership. This involves encouraging team members to follow your lead. Again, it can be suitable for an inexperienced team. The difference between autocratic and authoritative leadership is that autocratic leaders take the time to explain the reasons for their decisions. Plus, team members have some degree of choice as to how closely they follow instructions.
Other business owners prefer a laissez-faire approach, particularly when the company is still a startup. This allows team members to do as they see fit, which requires you to place a great deal of trust in your team. This can be problematic for projects with tight deadlines, as you risk falling behind.
To complete a project in record time, pacesetting leadership could be the right move. This style is all about setting a high bar and expecting your team members to keep up. It can be appropriate in a competitive work environment, but it is likely to be unsuitable for employees who are more used to a laid-back workplace culture. It is crucial you determine if pacesetting leadership will help you see great results in a short amount of time, or do the opposite — cause stress and perhaps even lose you employees.
If you feel that your team members need a bit of a push, but you’d prefer to avoid something as extreme as pacesetting, transformational leadership could be useful. This involves starting with the simplest tasks and objectives. Then, throughout the course of the project, you continuously push your team members out of their comfort zone. This helps employees to see that they are capable of more than they originally thought and is a great way to prepare for future projects.
You need a big personality for strategic leadership to work, as it involves influencing your team to become as passionate about the project as you are. Bill Gates, Lee Iacocca, and Ai WeiWei are all great examples of strategic leaders.
One last style of leadership to be aware of is bureaucratic. You may have come across bureaucratic leadership if you’ve worked at a traditional company. It’s another style where those at the top hold all the power, although employees at all levels do have a voice. All the same, managers are unwilling to implement employees’ ideas if this would involve major changes. With this in mind, it may be worth considering bureaucratic leadership if your project is made up of tried and tested processes that you are unlikely to be able to improve. Apart from that, though, this is one to avoid.
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