Delivering work that exceeds expectations requires project managers with unique and dynamic skill sets. Any seasoned project manager will tell you that great project management goes far beyond tools or methodology or simply moving a milestone. It demands a meticulous attention to detail for managing budgets and relationships, and an empathetic yet stern outlook for rallying your team or pushing back when necessary.
Here are the top 10 skills I’ve learned and developed during my time as a project manager that have helped me oversee successful projects at ROI·DNA.
The three most important words in project management are organization, organization, and organization. While this may seem somewhat obvious, there are a multitude of things a project manager needs to keep track of that might not seem so obvious to someone who doesn’t do it day in and day out. Part of this includes capturing every detail that gets thrown your way and also proactively planning for the future and anticipating roadblocks or blockers that may arise in the future.
Effective communication begins with defining a clear vision for a project and serving as a sounding board for mediating conversations between a variety of contributors and stakeholders. It’s important to remember that each stakeholder has different needs and concerns, and being able to address their needs will help drive project completion. Sometimes this means conveying the effort that has been put into a project and other times it can mean consolidating all information from meetings or translating high level client conversations to your internal team.
Throughout any given project numerous obstacles will arise and without being efficient with your time it’s nearly impossible to stay on track for final delivery. Deadlines and expectations can change, and that’s part of the job. Being able to take that in stride, not get flustered, and be both accommodating and resilient of changing scopes in the face of insurmountable changes will serve you well to deliver work that exceeds expectations.
You can’t say enough about being personable and pleasant in the face of adverse circumstances. Especially if you’re kicking off a new engagement with a client, once the project is over they’ll remember things like how a project manager brought positivity to every situation or how they were supportive and empathetic as stress levels rose. This approach can lead to your agency getting more work from clients and also underscores the idea that you can maintain a sense of humor while also maintaining your professionalism.
When clients need an answer that your team doesn’t have, you need to be persistent. While it can seem somewhat pushy, your team knows that when you hunt them down to get a status report on an overdue deliverable, you’re doing it to ensure the health of the project. Whether you have to walk over to their desk, send them an email, or pick up the phone and give them a call, getting answers isn’t always easy, but it’s always necessary. And persistence also goes two ways. Just as you need to be persistent with your own team, you also need to be persistent with clients to ensure that your team’s needs are met and their questions are answered without sounding overbearing.
The agency world isn’t for the timid. It’s a fast paced business that needs project managers who can wear many hats and do whatever is needed to keep projects moving forward. Project managers serve as a jack of all trades in how they interface with creative teams, dev teams, and executives, and also possess skills that span operations, strategy, business, and technology. Being able to expand your skill set and be as multifaceted as possible will serve you well in the long run.
Successful project management hinges on flexibility. When scoping out a project it’s important to provide some leeway for when contingencies occur, and then also finding other efficiencies in the project to make up for the difference. A good project manager will identify problems before they occur and then make proper adjustments to keep things moving forward.
8. Checking Your Emotions at the Door
Even if your team does great work and you do a fantastic job managing a complex project sometimes clients can still be unhappy. If such a situation presents itself, always remember to compartmentalize your feelings and stay humble. A lot of the time the client on the other side of the table is under pressure from their team and putting yourself in their shoes helps you maintain a high level of emotional intelligence. In all circumstances, checking your emotions at the door is an integral skill to have, even if it’s tough to do.
9. Knowing When to Push Back
When clients hire ROI·DNA, they’re hiring a team of experts to use their experience and expertise to come up with solutions that provide the greatest return on their investment. But sometimes what clients want isn’t always the best path forward. In that case, it’s our job to push back and tell them why their idea won’t generate the ROI they’re looking for. Additionally, it’s always important to tie everything back to the scope of the project. If halfway through a project a client wants to request a change, this can push the project over budget and cause problems with your agency. Pushing back can be difficult, but doing so shows that you have your client’s best interests in mind and will help establish trust for future projects.
10. Quality Management
Is it in a project manager’s job description to be the last line of defense in quality control? Probably not, but that’s the thing about project management—in order to be successful, you have to do a lot more than is in your job description. Giving a quick look over a project before hitting “send” can make a world of difference because sometimes your team is too close to a project to notice small mistakes, even though it’s their job.