Project leadership looks different in every company. So let's start with the basics and build a firm foundation for success! In this class, you'll learn how to clearly define the project manager's role, identify common misconceptions about project management, and understand the skills and qualities it takes to lead projects well.
Before we get into the how's and why's of project leadership, it's important to understand the basics of what project leadership actually is. Whether you're a project manager full-time or take on aspects of the role, you should know that the role shows up in different industries and organizations with a variety of meanings. Let's dive into the basics so you can gain a really solid understanding of what it means to be a great project manager.
Take notes so you can align with the qualities that I talk about and level up your career. Let's start with the definition of a project manager. What is a PM anyway? What is the most commonly understood role of a PM? The way that I see it, a project manager is the person who's on the frontline of projects, defending teams, clients, stakeholders, and projects from issues like miscommunication, missed deadlines, scope creep, and any other failures.Project managers also champion the well-being of people involved in their projects and facilitate strategic decisions that uphold the goals of the projects. That's a pretty hefty job description, and it requires a fine balance of managing the administrative details of the project and its people.
What's the difference between a project leader and a project manager? Well, in my opinion, there really isn't that big of a difference. People call project managers a number of things across industries. Really, the job is about leading projects. Leadership is a word that many people use, whether they're referring to project managers or not. It's a term that we can all relate to.
You'll also find project managers all over. Some example industries might be construction, finance, healthcare, digital, energy, IT, and a lot more. Anywhere there are projects, small or large, to be organized and actively managed, you'll find someone in a project management role. I want to talk a little bit about the misconceptions of project managers. Because not every organization handles the role the same way, I think that means not all people understand what great project managers are. I have a quick story to share. When I spoke at a conference, an attendee came up to me after my session, and of course, my session was about project management. This person said, "I've never worked with a good PM." And wow, that felt really tough for me. I wanted to talk to this person about what their expectations were of project management. Part of me really wanted to convince him that, hey, some project managers are really good. We ended up talking about his expectations of the PM and how they could help him in his role.
At the end of the conversation, I decided that maybe this PM wasn't that bad, but perhaps that the role and the expectations of the PM were never really set. I offered my advice and I asked this person to have an honest conversation and talk about what's needed of his role and how they could partner together to make both of their work a little stronger. I like to think that that advice helped and that PM succeeded, or at least I hope that he or she did. If you're in a position where your role isn't understood, you should be sure to have a clear, focused job description. Check out the sample PM job description template in the downloads, and be sure to align your responsibilities with your own job description.
Now, let's dive deeper into some more misconceptions. A really big misconception about PMs is that they're admins or secretaries who work behind the scenes. But I have to say, PMs don't just set up meetings and take notes. Yes, project managers create plans, generate reports, and check in on tasks, but they're also strategic leaders. They look after project goals, they facilitate decisions, they drive work to be done and decided on, to meet those goals successfully. They're really strategic. Strategic about process, communications, relationship building, and even efficiency and getting work done.
You might be wondering, how does that get done? Let's talk through some of the most important things a great PM needs to know how to do. Now, these might not be all things you see PMs doing, and that's okay. We all handle the job differently depending on our projects and the way that our organizations work. But these are the skills that the best PMs need to master in order to deliver impactful projects on time and on budget.
First is estimating and scoping. This is definitely one of the most difficult but important steps of any project. Project managers often help to define the overall effort needed to take on a project. This requires a unique understanding of roles, tasks, and process. It's complex and varies by project and person conducting tasks. In class three, we'll uncover the techniques used to more accurately estimate your projects.
Next is crafting, building, and managing process. You may run waterfall, agile, or even hybrid projects, but what's most important is that you understand the ins and outs of that process and work with your team to refine and make that process even better. Check out class number two for a deeper dive on process and methodologies. Great project managers also create and manage project plans. All successful projects have plans. You'll use a tool like Team Gantt to create and manage your plans. Make sure you've correctly outlined tasks, timing and deadlines, dependencies and resources. Class number five covers all you'll need to know about how to use a great project plan.
Next is managing tasks. The best PMs are not simply taskmasters or box checkers, but they do have to check in on tasks to make sure that the work is progressing and that they have a pulse on projects. Great PMs also report on status. Status reports are a critical communication to make sure everyone on a project is in-the-know on what's happening or not happening. We have a status report template for download that you'll get in one of the future class... projects to people, not resources. If they balance a team's workload to make sure that they're not overbooked and to maintain a good work-life balance, and protect your products too. If you don't pay attention to resourcing or workload plans, you'll find yourself up against missed deadlines, conflicting meetings, and unhappy team members.
Next is motivating teams. We all know that times can get tough on projects. Feedback can be brutal. Meetings can be tricky. Stakeholders aren't always happy or easy to please. It's a project manager's job to be a cheerleader, to motivate teams in the face of adversity. Basically, what you want to do as a great PM, is to get the best possible outcome of your project and your team.
Next is monitoring scope. Every project comes with boundaries, whether it's in the form of a documented scope or intended goals or outcomes. As a PM, you have to keep your eye on everything to make sure that you're not going over scope. The things that help you to keep a watchful eye are requirements, deliverables, progress, or even lack thereof when you're watching time being spent or requirements being met. Keeping an eye on the quality of the work to make sure that it stays within the boundaries is a part of scope control. We'll cover more on scope control in class number eight.
Next is wrangling calendars and meetings. This is the fun stuff. Not only do PMs have to organize critical meetings, but they also have to manage them. It's not the most glamorous part of the job, but it's pretty important because meetings can be critical to making decisions and aligning aspects of your project. Check out class number 12 for more on how to get the most out of meetings.
Last is facilitating communications. Without really solid communications, projects fail. Being the backbone of the project, the keeper of the details, the ship seer, is what a PM does. We'll dig into this in several of our classes, but it's really focused in class number eight.
Now that we've covered the tasks that great PMs take on, I also want to talk about the things that project managers don't do. In a strict PM role, they wouldn't be a producer who's responsible for creating deliverables, but that's not always the case. In many instances, people in producer roles share the PM role, and that can be difficult at times. Also, project managers are not line managers. That means they're responsible for projects, not managing teams and their disciplines. This can be quite difficult, so it requires project managers to know the line and also have a good line of communication with those line managers. Those are the tasks. Sounds pretty doable, right? Well, there are a lot of other aspects of the role to consider, and we'll get to that, but not too fast.
Let's talk about how these tasks are taken on by official project managers versus those of us who are tasked with project management. That's a big task. What's the difference between being a PM and taking on PM tasks? It's a dedicated role versus taking on management tasks. It can mean that you approach the role completely differently given time constraints. An example of that might be a designer who's working to create a new look and feel for a website but also has to manage a project plan, conduct tasks and stay on top of those tasks, as well as oversee a project budget. This kind of thing happens all the time for freelancers, small business owners, and even employees.
What are the things you should do if you're a part-time project manager? You should set expectations with your team and check in on them. You should plan your projects and update those plans regularly. You should check in on tasks through a regular stand up meeting. You should also send status reports regularly to make sure that everyone knows what's happening on a project at any given time. Most of all, you should facilitate communications. Do what you can to keep communications clear, tasks top of mind, and a long-term strategy and goal is in place.
Now, let's talk about the role of the full-time project manager. Remember my story? The expectations of the role can be difficult to pin down, and that can lead to feelings that the role isn't needed or maybe is even redundant. How did you address those feelings? I think it really starts with asking yourself some questions.
First is, am I contributing to the project in a positive way? Do my team members and clients or stakeholders know what I do with my time? How active am I on my projects? Am I watching things happen, or am I actually a part of those things? When was the last time I actually spoke with words, in person or by phone, with my team? At the end of the day, as a PM, you do need to check yourself. It's too easy to get bogged down in the administrative details. You need to focus on people and relationships to be well-rounded and useful or helpful.
We all need to prove ourselves in our jobs no matter our role. It's the same for the designer to prove that she can create a great website while also managing her work on her own. All right. What I'm saying is that we're all leaders in some way, whether we know it or not. Of course, some are better than others, and that's okay. It takes a special person to be a project manager. Let's talk about the qualities of those special people and how they possess them.
The first quality of a great project leader is having an eagle eye for project issues. As a project manager, you have to have your finger on the pulse of all of the details, and that includes a lot of things, like project goals, stakeholders, your team, budgets, deadlines, new ideas, and scope creep. There's really a lot wrapped up in that. You're constantly concerned about the well-being of your project, and your team, because the minute an issue or even an opportunity for one pops up, you have to explore it, discuss it, and make a plan to clear it immediately. If you don't, you know it's going to become a bigger issue and affect your project negatively.
Another quality of great project management is being a clear, calm, communicator. Again, communication is huge in project management. Being transparent, direct, and very clear about project information will make any project issue easier to handle. If you stay calm, it shows that you're in control and can handle any issue. Good PMs are true chameleons. They employee go-to methods and tools to facilitate project communications and adapt to individual preferences to encourage the best of teams, prevent and solve issues, and even share news.
Great project managers are also empathetic. Whether things are going well or falling behind, it's important to put yourself in other people's shoes to understand how and why they're feeling or behaving in a certain way. Whether it's a team member missing a deadline or a stakeholder second-guessing a decision, you can gain an understanding of other people's intent and take it into consideration when making decisions.
Great project leaders are also curious. Things change often, and you need to be curious about that change, whether it's on your project or within your industry. Understanding your industry, developments or changes in the landscape, and how things could impact you and your projects will help you to be a better PM. This can be about new features in a product, like Team Gantt, new tech or methods developed in your industry, or even some of the new ideas you'll pick up in this class. Showing your desire to learn shows that you're a great PM.
Great project managers are also invested in the work. In fact, the best PMs are the ones who get out from behind their plans and spreadsheets and take an active role in their projects. Share your ideas, conversations, thoughts, and even hunches. That shows an investment and will help you to build trust with your team and your stakeholders.
Also, be flexible and adaptable. We've talked about how change happens. The best project managers roll with that change and adapt to that in order to keep projects running smoothly. It's easy to complain about change, and you should vent to somebody who you can trust when you need to. But know that embracing the change helps to build trust and respect among your team. Those are the qualities that I find in great project managers. Let's take a minute to hear what some industry experts think about great project management.
Speaker 2: Well, a project leader can do lots of different things, but it really starts with self-awareness because they got to know who they are, what they're about, what they're good at. Also, the things that they may be not so good at. They've got to learn the craft, the thing that we talked about in project management, the technical abilities, it's technical abilities of project managers, not of the software that you might be implementing. You've got to know how to do a work breakdown structure. You've got to know all of the tools. You've got to be able to run a sprint. This is what project leaders are really really good at is they've got a toolkit of stuff that they can just use at any time. But they've also got to be great at building really really good teams. The best projects ever are a result of the person that leads it or the environment they create for great teamwork. I often think that building teams is a skill that we're losing as project managers. It's really about leadership, it's about culture, and it's about understanding the methods that we use in our toolkits for great project managers.
Speaker 3: I think a good project leader needs to be flexible, and they need to be able to solve problems quickly. As projects managers, we run into so many different kinds of situations and issues, and oftentimes, our team looks to us to know how to solve those issues. We're managing problems that might come from management, from projects, from our teams, or just from the relationships that we have, and it's our responsibility to help our team and our stakeholders navigate through those issues.
Speaker 4: I think you need to be supremely emotionally intelligent. You need to be a great critical thinker. You have to love learning, and you'll be learning your entire life. I think you have to be able to know how to take calculated risks.
Speaker 1: Now that you've heard my take on the qualities of a good PM, and you've heard from some industry experts, check out the qualities of a good PM download, and get inspired to be a great leader. Share the doc with your team, pin the pages up on your office or cue ball and do everything you can to show that you're a great project leader.
That brings us to the end of the first class. Here's a quick recap of what we discussed. Project leaders come in many forms and titles, depending on your industry and company. The tasks that PMs take on are wide-ranging and varied and can truly help to shape a project's success and a team or stakeholders overall experience. You can master the tasks of project management and be a PM, or you can do the same and be a solid project leader who has another focus. Being open to change and practicing clear, calm communications will help you lead teams through even the most difficult projects. Project leadership isn't easy, but no matter your background, you can do this with a little help from your friends at Team Gantt. If you can relate to these basics about the role and build trust, you'll be an excellent project leader. You're off to a good start, especially as you continue to watch the rest of these classes and use the downloads.
Thanks for watching. See you next time.