Project Manager Tips: Direct From the Project Team
Becky Tornes, Former Senior Project Manager
If you turn to the co-worker sitting next to you and you ask “What can I be doing better?”, chances are you’ll get a generic, vague answer as most coworkers don’t want to make waves or be hurtful. It’s generally a great thing; but, it can make it hard to know between annual reviews if anything you’re doing is off-base. This is why when you start a new job, you are in one of the best positions possible to solicit advice on what you should and shouldn’t do in your job.
As a Project Manager at Viget, I work with members from all teams/groups/labs. As part of my Viget orientation, I was given the opportunity to talk with a member of each team/group/lab (a UX designer, front-end developer, backend developer, visual designer, and marketing/analytics team member) and learn more about how they operate, the deliverables they create, and - because of a final question I always asked - what they’ve liked and haven’t liked as much about project managers here at Viget. Because my question wasn’t asking them to comment on me or my work, everyone I talked to was very willing to cite examples of things project managers have done that they love and things they wish project managers would or wouldn’t do.
I made note of everyone’s responses and try to regularly look at them to remind myself of common pitfalls. Whether you are a veteran or newbie project manager, or not a project manager at all, I think these tips are good reminders for all of us who work with and within teams.
1. Ask early and often, and definitely never assume
- Aren’t sure if someone should be in a meeting? Or, if they have all the information they need? Or, if something is a front-end or backend development ticket? Just ask.
- When in doubt, ask team members too many questions.
- Avoid making assumptions. Always ensure you are asking team members how long something will take before committing them.
2. Encourage collaboration
- Facilitate more collaboration between disciplines. Upfront collaboration is extremely helpful to a project’s success.
- When a conversation or collaboration happens on the fly in an office, make sure what was discussed or decided is communicated out to all team members. This is especially critical if you are working with a remote team (team members spread out across locations).
3. Meetings are not necessary for everyone all the time
- Does everybody need to be at your meeting? Will each person have something valuable to contribute?
- Communicate the purpose and goals of each meeting in advance. Use the meeting description field in a meeting invite to explain why we are having the meeting and allow team members to figure out if it makes sense for them to join.
4. Find out the best way to communicate with each team member
- Are you getting blank stares when you ask a question? Are team members too quick to say yes if a new task or amount of hours seems reasonable? Different people respond to different methods of communication, and you need to find out what people respond to and what resonates so you can effectively ask questions and get valuable answers.
5. Stay calm
- Everything is urgent and a big deal, especially to the client -- but, that doesn’t mean it’s time to panic. The calmer you are, the more likely things will go smoothly and efficiently.
These were the top 5 consistent things I heard from the various co-workers I talked to; but, I have no doubt there are more great tips project managers can hear to make their team members' lives easier. Do you (as a project manager or member of a project team) have a tip to share? Please post it in the comments below!