All project leaders are different, from their thought processes to their daily interactions, but there are a few things that great ones do every day that just might set them apart from the rest.
Great project leaders make waves
Although it often is, making waves shouldn’t be confused with making trouble or making problems. Great change can only come about when project leaders remain in a constant and conscious state of continuous improvement. They make waves by performing the following tasks and services:
- Consistently identifying and discussing process improvements
- Continually looking to reinforce best practices
- Remaining transparent about problems as they arise with sponsors and stakeholders
- Directly addressing conflict as they arise
- Redirecting focus back to the client or stakeholder whenever necessary
- Seeking opportunities to share project experiences and lessons learned with stakeholders, other leaders, team members, and sponsors.
- Standing up for what’s ethical, fair, and right, even when it may not be popular
They demonstrate their best professional self
Great project leaders strive to exude all the qualities that allow them to be at their best, personally and professionally, at all times…or at least as much as possible. They have to speak to shareholders from all parts of the business and be persuasive in those conversations. That requires a special set of skills that include the following:
- Confidence in their abilities, which allows others to feel confident in their leadership
- Humility which allows others to see them as human
- Respect for others at all times, this creates higher levels of morale
- Trust in others, which helps them remain trustworthy
- Fairness when making decisions
Recognize and appreciate others
This is an important point that can easily go unnoticed. With the hurried pace of projects these days, project leaders can easily get caught in the rush and forget to recognize some basic human needs in team members, stakeholders, sponsors, and executives. A great project leader makes team members feel included like they have a voice that matters.
He or she also keeps them in the know, recognizing their efforts and connecting them to the big picture and bottom line. Great project leaders do the following:
- Listen to the ideas of others, regardless of their rank in an organization
- Recognize and voice appreciation for the efforts of others
- Allow opportunities for individuals to demonstrate their highest-level contributions and to receive recognition for those contributions
- Say thank you for a job well done (This is so simple but often left unsaid)
Keep the communication flowing
Sometimes keeping the communication flowing even when things may seem at a standstill creates activity by providing reminders that help when schedules are hectic, and things can easily be missed. Great project leaders recognize that ongoing communication is paramount to successful business outcomes. With that in mind, project managers must remember to regularly do the following:
- Remind team members, executives, and stakeholders that unfinished items still remain in the pipeline
- Offer peace of mind for others, as they know that a project leader is on top of things
- Make sure that there is accountability to stakeholders
- Communicate in an ongoing manner, which also provides stakeholders with confidence and trust in a project leader’s abilities
The sheer nature of project management requires a great deal of flexibility. Project leaders who are inflexible simply won’t be able to effectively deliver. The more project leaders can adapt and remain flexible, the greater chance they have of improving their level of customer service—and make no mistake; project management is most definitely a high-level, high-visibility customer-service field. Leaders need to remain flexible in the areas shown.
Remember, change is truly the one constant in project management, and flexibility will remain a necessity. Effective project managers demonstrate flexibility in the following ways:
- They adapt to business requirement changes.
- They are able to remain open-minded when it comes to ideas and innovation.
- They deal well with shifting schedules, which will often change as project parameters shift.
Acknowledge weakness and seek to gain strength
Yes, project leaders are expected to have a wealth of knowledge and skill, but it’s important to recognize and acknowledge that project leaders can’t know everything. It’s equally important for a project leader to know his or her weaknesses and try to improve in those areas. Why is this important? It is important for the following reasons:
- Recognizing and acknowledging a weakness allows for growth opportunities.
- It also affords a project leader some humility and reduces the chances of demonstrating arrogance.
- Great leaders need to recognize they can still learn from others and never really stop trying to be qualified to do their jobs.
Admit mistakes and allow others to make them
There will never be a project in which mistakes aren’t made; the key is reducing them and their impact. Even the greatest project leaders will make mistakes, but they will admit that they have made them and will look for opportunities to mitigate the risk in the future. They also allow others to make mistakes and work with them in ways that offer the individuals an opportunity to be part of the solution for the future.
When a mistake has been made, great leaders choose to do the following:
- Accept that people aren’t perfect
- Look for positive and innovative solutions to the problem
- Help others resolve issues in ways that aren’t harmful to an individual’s morale
- Remain focused on stakeholder needs and successful project outcomes
Frequently and regularly revisit schedule and priorities
Paying attention to schedules and priorities may seem to be an automatic part of project management, but ask any project leader: schedules and priorities can easily get away from them during hectic times. Really great project leaders recognize this and revisit both at the beginning and end of their workdays. Doing so has the following benefits:
- It gives them an opportunity to get ahead of things that may have changed without being communicated so that there are no surprises.
- It allows them to be better prepared for unanticipated events.
- Change can sometimes mean opportunities for greater innovation.
- Changes to priorities and schedules and even requirements can completely change the scope of a project in detrimental ways.
- Changes can also greatly impact capacity planning.
Regularly meet with appropriate stakeholders and team members
This doesn’t have to be an hour-long formal meeting each day, but regular meetings with appropriate project individuals keep communication and tasks moving along. It’s not always possible to meet face-to-face; meetings can be as little as five minutes and take place over the phone or by video conference.
Great leaders adapt but make the time to communicate regularly. They understand that ongoing communication makes up an extremely large part of project success and will make the effort to do the following:
- Meet weekly with project teams and stakeholders to discuss progress, problems, and next steps
- Meet immediately with individuals when conflict arises in order to resolve issues and get things back on track
- Share ideas, make suggestions, discuss improvements, and listen to others
Take breaks and encourage team members to do the same
By the sheer nature of the field and work required, time commitment, and intensity, project management can consume a project leader’s day with very little effort. Really great project leaders recognize and accept this and carve outbreaks in their day for the following reasons:
- Breaks provide them and their teams a few minutes to refocus and regroup.
- Projects are stressful and make it necessary to de-stress, even for a few minutes, a few times a day.
- Individuals need a chance to stretch and move around in order to maintain good mind and body health.
- Breaks increase creativity and improve the chances of getting through the day.
- Breaks reduce the chances of burnout.
All content: Copyright 2018 by CIO.com—IDG Enterprise Inc., 492 Old Connecticut Path, Framingham, MA. 01701.
Moira Alexander, PMP, I.S.P., ITCP/IP3P, is a recognized project management influencer, thought leader, a regular correspondent for PMI’s Projectified podcast, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PMWorld 360 Magazine, Founder of Lead-Her-Ship Group, and author of “LEAD or LAG: Linking Strategic Project Management & Thought Leadership”. Moira has over 25 years of experience in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the US and Canada and has been quoted in various publications including Forbes. She writes thought leadership content for top-tier publications and business blogs and oversees or writes sponsored content and software reviews on PMWorld 360 Magazine.