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The way to becoming a good project manager

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The way to becoming a good project manager

Become a good one, not someone who barely manages a project. There’s more to it then meets the eye.

Being a project manager is not for the faint of heart. It’s one of those careers where you’re required to have a grasp on various other complementary professions to project management.

Knowing what other careers go through on daily basis, will give you an edge, as a project manager. This way you will know how to communicate with anyone in your team using their terminology and gain some street cred points along the way.

The way to becoming a PM

There are two ways into becoming a project manager.

The first one is to attend school, a course, or a training that offers either project management as a general approach or through one of the specific project management methods (which I wont go into detail here — you can read more on The Digital Project Manager website).

Learning project management this way is fine. However, in school (or courses) you will only get an overview of what project management entails. No matter how focused the program is — it can never mimic real life situations when taking a project from zero and bringing something completely new to the market.

The second way of becoming a project manager is to find yourself managing projects (and people).

And this could happen as a result of…

  • Your career progression has guided you towards becoming a project manager
  • You have just started a company and there’s no one else in your team who can do the job
  • You really like working with people
  • You love making products by bringing the best talent together
  • ...and (maybe) You no longer like doing technical work

Whichever way it is, there’s one aspect to all this: You will only learn it like it really is — in the trenches.

Don’t get me wrong, learning project management in school is a fair route to take, however you will lack the real life sweat and tears that come with it.

What the process of managing projects like?

Bringing a service or a product to life from practically nothing is a noble feat. Doing it with others is a badge of honor only a few can achieve.

Yes, everyone can manage a project. Everyone can launch something. Anything. Only a few know how to really do it. And that means managing people, too.

If you like working alongside other people, you’ll be hind.

What are you really doing when managing a project

When managing projects, what you’re actually doing is anything but that.

You are managing people, deadlines, limited resources, unruly clients, ever changing landscapes, and even weather, maybe, sometimes — to mention just a few.

Those who love managing projects, this is what they crave. The unknown parts. The parts where they have to roll up their sleeves and go the distance if need to.

No, you don’t have to do the actual work. Your team doesn’t want you to do that. They want you to lead. And by “lead” I mean You creating the close to perfect conditions for everyone to do their work.

You may find yourself in a therapist’s position as you help a team member overcome a burnout. Or better yet, notice their burnout beforehand and single them out before it’s too late.

The culprit

If you are building a product for yourself or your own company — without a specific client being involved, then kudos! You are in a privileged position.

For others who deal with clients on daily basis, it’s a whole different ball game trying to get them on the same page. Yes, you are there for them. But, you also are there for You and your team.

It’s important to know this specific bit, so the equation is balanced on both end without any parties feeling being taken advantage of.

How to succeed as a project manager

In all projects, clients are those who can make or break their very own project. You as a project manager have the responsibility to tame the beast. Yes, your client is the beast. Lets get over that and move along.

I use the word “beast”, because I have seen project managers try to fulfill every need and want the client has to the detriment of the project, which would ultimately lead for the client to unleash the beast within and burn everything to the ground as their project burns entering the atmosphere. Ok, I agree, I am not so sure this metaphor holds, but you get my point.

It goes like this:

  • The brief
    The client has a specific need, upon which a brief is created clearly stating what needs to get done
  • Project starts
    Everything goes well until the client starts requesting more things midway (Note: Asking for things midway is not the problem. The problem lies on how project managers deal with these new asks)
  • The inexperienced project manager
    • Says “Yes” to everything
    • Tries to make their client happy at any cost
    • Drives their own team insane
    • Loses their team
    • Kills the project
    • Parts ways with the client
    • Loses their job
  • The experienced project manager

    • Listens to the client
    • Protects and takes care of their team first and foremost
    • Evaluates new client requests
    • Tries to avoid, like the plague, new midway ‘nice-to-haves’
    • For ‘must haves’, tries to work with the client on postponing them after launch
    • Tries to maintain the agreed upon course.
    • Delivers the project
    • Celebrates with the team and rests so they can do it all over again

Final recommendations

If you really want to become a project manager then hats off to you. It’s one of those professions that I highly regard as key in delivering anything new. You are the general of the armies. The one who can lead a team astray or guide them towards success and accomplishment.

If you have just found yourself in this position and you don’t feel fully capable of — go fully in it. Read a few things online, but make sure you cover the basics:

  • What is the brief? What needs to get delivered and when?
  • Update your client on daily basis. Stay in touch with them
  • Know your team. Be there for them. Facilitate their success

Regardless if you work with an in-house or a remote team, people are people at the end of the day and they want to be heard.

If you are in the same office with your team, make sure you talk to your team about things not relating to the project so you know how they’re doing and feeling.

If you have remote workers outside of your immediate vicinity, than make sure to ping them via Messenger, Slack, SMS, Phone, Video conference. One of the main reasons remote workers switch jobs so easily and frequently is because they feel left out by the management. A direct result of the their manager (ahem, You) not acknowledging their efforts directly. It’s always good to know what remote workers go through, so you can relate and help them in the process of becoming more productive.

Go for it and bring new things to life. Your team and client will thank you for it.

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