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5 Project Management Dos and Don’ts

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Last year, I talked about a few must-have skills of great project managers. They should maintain focus and build trust among clients and those whom they manage. They should communicate well and empathize with others.

But how exactly do you do that? This month, I want to share a few project management ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’—specific actions to stick to (or avoid) if you want to win your charges’ respect. Here they are:

Do share progress with your team.

You might think it’s better if your team can just work without interruption. Or that designers don’t really need to know what coders are up to. Think again—being up-to-date on all aspects of a project can help teams really understand their roles and work toward a common goal. Don’t have time for a sit-down meeting? Try an email recap every few days, or keep everyone in the loop using an online project management tool.

Don’t shy away from sharing bad news either, like negative client feedback or a tightened budget. You can’t expect your team members to give you the results you need if they don’t know what’s going on. And who knows? Someone might come up with just the solution to get you out of a bind.

But don’t ask for updates nonstop.

While you want your project to be completed correctly and on time, you don’t want your team rushing to you with every little issue. One part of being a good manager is helping people learn to solve problems on their own. And you can do that is by not peering over their shoulders, watching their every move.

Set up a timetable for checking in with your team—say, twice a week, or as soon as a task is completed. In between check-ins, give everybody some breathing room. (If you really do need up-to-the-minute updates, a project management tool can help out here, too.)

Do involve others in decisions.

It’s tempting to keep decision-making responsibilities to yourself. You might think this will make others see you as a leader or make things easier for your team. But like sharing progress, it’s important to loop others in to project-related decisions, big and small.

Sharing decisions is a great way to earn trust among your colleagues—after all, they’re much more likely to buy in to a new idea if it’s one they helped come up with themselves. They may also have important knowledge that could help inform a choice. You’ll never know until you ask.

Don’t pass off all of the grunt work.

In any project, there’s always a task (or a few) that nobody wants. Whether it’s taking notes at meetings, photocopying files, or preparing invoices, it’s snooze-worthy work, but somebody’s gotta do it.

I’ve found the best approach is to trade off who’s responsible for these less-exciting tasks. And don’t you’re in the clear, Project Manager—show a little empathy for your team and do invoice duty yourself every now and then.

Do clearly define project objectives.

Have you ever worked on a project where no one really seemed to know what was expected of them? When people don’t know whether they’re on track or what their manager is hoping for, things don’t tend to end well.

It’s okay to give creative teams some freedom of expression. But be clear about what success looks like—before starting a project. And be prepared to repeat yourself if a new team member comes aboard. Especially when it comes to client work, project expectations can never be too clear.

Following these steps doesn’t have to mean making big changes to your project management style. But it does require commitment. Give these tips a try, and watch your team’s responsiveness improve.

Got project management dos and don’ts of your own? Let us know what you’d add to the list.

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