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20 Tips to Become a Successful Project Manager in 2020

While there is no single cause or technique that can make the difference between being an average project manager versus a great project manager. There are many skill sets that a great project manager will develop such as leadership, discipline, collaboration, communication, and managing budgets and timelines. 

If you’re considering a career as a project manager, these 20 tips will help you begin to develop these skills as you work on your projects. Follow them carefully, and they’ll surely help you kick your project management career off with a flying start. 

1. Pay Detailed Attention To How You Communicate

There are so many reasons why you need to pay a lot of attention to how you communicate during any project. Mistakes can happen, project scope increases, reputations can wane, and everybody can lose moral. For all of these reasons, it’s important to have an effective communication plan in place.

2. Be Transparent With Your Project Stakeholders

As a new Project Manager, you may find it challenging at first, to be frank with your project stakeholders, but you must do so. You don’t want them to be surprised by a situation. 

Besides, you’ll seem to be much more in control if you are sharing information about any changes to the plans, delays, or problems with them. Just make sure that you have a solution, or have a plan for how you will be finding the answer to any problems you share.

Also making sure your stakeholders know the consequences of a decision along with a plan for how you’ll manage it reassures them that you’re communicating with them well and helps them to feel in control because you are.

3. Continuously Review Your Risk Management Plan

When you take the Project Management training, you’ll discover why risk management plans are a vital aspect of project management. 

It’s important to review and discuss this plan with your team continually though. This strategy will allow your team to present any issues or challenges they are facing or are concerned about so that everybody understands what risks need to be addressed during the project.

4. Don’t Dive In To Fix All Problems

Instead, empower your team to fix their issues themselves. 

It’s so easy to want to be the hero of the moment, or to want to get things done how you want them doing. But this is a fastrack for losing control of your project. 

If you make an effort to support and empower your team into solving their problems while escalating any issues, they can’t resolve to you. It will leave you with more time to oversee the project and will also leave the project less vulnerable to scope creep and risks.

5. Solve Problems Early

Never sit on a problem, hoping it will go away and don’t wait for a problem to appear if you can prevent it before it does. The old saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ applies here. 

As a new project manager, you may not have the skill or experience to pre-empt problems bubbling under the surface. But paying attention to these when they do occur and disciplining yourself to respond as soon as you’re aware will help your projects run smoothly. 

As you gain experience, you’ll develop an eye for potential problems.

6. Develop a Strong Sense of Self Awareness

Don’t allow yourself to be a project manager who gets set in your ways. That’s the fast-track to becoming stale. 

Keep on reflecting on how your projects go, what you could improve, and how you could improve yourself and your own approach to work throughout your career. 

Embrace criticism and explore it, allowing it to be your teacher rather than the enemy.

7. Create Standardised Templates and Systems

If you create systems, processes and methods of working, you’ll avoid mistakes and scope creep. 

Create templates for all phases of work and regularly review and update them.

8. Define The End Goal

All projects need an end plan, which can sometimes be difficult to determine depending on the project you are managing.

If you find yourself challenged by this issue, start by focusing on what problem the project is trying to solve and work back from there. This way, you’ll determine a critical pathway, discover obstacles and will have the opportunity to work out a plan to manage these challenges.

9. Master Time Management

Any efforts to improve your time management skills as a project manager will benefit your career and project success significantly and will probably save you and your team a pile of stress and hard work. 

It’s a project manager’s secret weapon and one you should prioritise as a new project manager.

10. Set Very Clear Expectations With Clients

Some clients can be difficult. They can also become difficult if they are unaccountable for the role they play in the project. Clients can also delay progress or add new requirements to a pre-agreed scope of work. 

It’s vital to set clear expectations and boundaries with clients before embarking upon your project. It will save you from difficult conversations and frustration on both yours and your clients part. 

Some of the ways in which you can do so is by setting clear boundaries about how additional work requests and time delays are chargeable and make sure you charge them.

11. Build Good Relationships With Your Team

Keep in touch with your team after the end of a project, talk about how the project went, and what could be done better. Gain feedback about your management and ideas for how the team think. 

This is also a great opportunity to network too. You never know when you might need a team member in the future.

12. Develop Your Networking, Interpersonal and Relationship Skills

You’ll soon discover that to be a great project manager, you need to be great at relationship building. It’s one of the most significant parts of the job. 

Which means that if you invest in developing skills in networking, relationships, and how you engage with people, you’ll instantly stand out. And your projects will run smoothly with the cooperation and support of others.

13. Identify and Remove Friction Points

Friction points are obstacles and distractions.  These are things that are not necessarily part of the project but can occur due to our way of working. 

Make sure all work is complete, stick to templates and methodologies, hone the team’s communication style, and remove anything that prevents people from getting work done efficiently.

14. Build In Buffers and Contingencies For Everything

Don’t work to a final deadline or budget — instead, negotiate buffers and contingencies. 

For example, you may give a team member a deadline, which is two days ahead of the real deadline. This way, you can buffer some inevitable problems and delays without stressing out yourself or your team. 

You won’t have to be having an awkward conversation with the project stakeholders as often either.

15. Set Milestones

Keep your project on track and your team focused by creating milestones or sub-task deadlines. 

Just make sure that you build in the buffers mentioned above for these milestones. This is a great way to monitor progress and avoid overwhelm on a larger project.

16. Develop Resilience and Perseverance

You’ll need to have buckets of ‘bounce back ability’ as a project manager. You’ll need to remain robust, resilient and persevere even when you haven’t got a clue as to how you might move forward. You’ll also need to develop a mentality that will help you figure things out and get the project moving again.

17. Review Your Project Weekly

Weekly reviews will help you to remember to look over your project, and more precisely identify gaps or friction points in the project. 

Focus on scope, budgets, time, deadlines, and objectives. 

This is also a great time to review your work process and ring any changes that you may need to make personally and even for checking that you are acting on your plans and you and your team are executing plans and not hiding behind the planning process.

18. Continually Research and Discover Ways To Manage Scope Creep

If you make it your mission to curb scope creep and develop the knowledge and skills to do so accordingly, you’ll find that your projects stay on track more regularly than not. 

You might want to factor in plans to gain and react to feedback, include extra rounds of revisions, add buffers and contingencies, improve your communication and network with other project managers to see how they manage scope creep.

19. Identify and Play to Your Teams Strengths and Weaknesses

The more effort you place here, the better your project will run. In doing so, you’ll find that you can find additional resources amongst your team in unexpected places. 

You give your team the opportunity to shine and grow, and you can manage any weaknesses without reducing morale. This is a win-win strategy that’s for sure.

20. Pay Attention to the Details

Attention to detail is as vital and as important as meeting your deadlines. There are so many little parts in a project which are always moving and changing that you need to keep track of and manage. 

As you start out, you won’t necessarily know what to apply your attention to, but you’ll soon learn with experience. This is a great way to avoid micromanaging your team, and scope creep.

If you’ve just finished your project management training though, don’t expect to have every base covered, just learn from anything you missed. 

As you can see, many of these tips involve the development of soft skills, the kind of skills that will continue to serve you throughout your life and career. The role of a project manager is one of the most rewarding and engaging roles you might take. It is fast-paced, creative, analytical, and a sociable role that will grow with you as you grow into your role.

July 7, 2020

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