I’ve had plenty of project managers over the years, and it’s really easy to separate the good ones from the bad ones. The bad ones made me dread coming to work each day, while the good ones inspired me to want to succeed for them. So, what does it actually take to be a good and successful project manager? Getting things done on time and under (or within) budget. Sounds easy, right? Let’s dive into what that actually entails.

1. Understand the Goals of the Project

Before you can instruct others on what they need to do, you have to understand it yourself—inside out. You know the quote, ‘if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough’? Make this your mantra. You’ll need to know the fundamentals of the project well enough that you can explain it in your sleep, making you adept at training others on what to do and being able to answer their questions. You’re only as good as your weakest link, so make that person as strong as you can.

2. Learn Others’ Communication Styles and Speak to them in Their ‘Language’

Some people do well with one-line instructions, while others excel with detailed notes. Some people do well with abstract theories, while others need black and white explanations. It’s your responsibility to figure out what people need to work most effectively and speak to them in those words. Being able to adapt to your team reduces the chances of confusion and misdirection, making it easier to reach goals on time.

3. Simplify How You Communicate

First off, think about the urgency of your message. Is it a lower priority that’s better suited for email, or do you need a quicker response that should be sent by instant message?

Second, consider how many people need to know. If it’s something the whole team can benefit from, post it on the central message board instead of wasting time by crafting individual emails.

Third, ask yourself if you need a response from them or not. If what you’re communicating is meant for your team to think about and take with them, a simple message will do. But if you need more, include a question or call-to-action at the end, and with a timeframe as well. Something like, ‘The files can’t be uploaded until I receive these documents, so I’ll need them from you by end of day Wednesday.’ This tells them clearly what the situation is, what action you need from them, and the urgency of their response.

Last, don’t overburden your team with more than they need. They’re busy enough as it is, so don’t send cutesy or funny messages just to pass the time. Only write something that won’t be an unnecessary distraction, and keep it as concise as possible.

4. Set Out Clear Goals and Deadlines

Habits of productive people

I’ve played rugby for a number of different coaches and their teaching methods were as different as night and day. One liked to keep practices loose and unstructured, while another came in with a whiteboard and said, ‘We’ll be doing X drill for Y minutes to achieve Z result.’ Guess which coach improved our team more?

Be like my rugby coach and come into a project with the same kind of structure, clarity and direction. Identify where the starting and end points are, triage needs into must-haves and nice-to-haves, outline the project details and needs, and make sure all team members know what the deadlines and expectations are.

Oh, and don’t forget to call attention to achievements and milestones! Each team member likes to know their work is paying off, so celebrate each achieved deadline and goal. Not only will it make them feel good about what they’re doing, but it helps keep attention on how the schedule is progressing.

5. Remember That You Don’t Know Everything

You’re the project manager so you might not ‘know nothing, Jon Snow’, but you still have a lot to learn. Your team is on the ground doing all the hands-on work, so they’re the best ones to tell you what’s working and what isn’t. Keep an open mind to what you’re hearing and adapt your methods to suit the overall project’s goals.

Plus, nobody likes a know-it-all, so don’t be that person.

6. Give Your Team the Freedom to Work in Their Own Best Ways

My personal style of work is I like super clear, direct instructions, but the autonomy to choose how I finish it all in one day. I don’t want to do the same thing at the same time each day — I’d rather pick a task that speaks to me at that particular moment. But I have a coworker who sits close by who’s the total opposite. She prefers to make a to-do list and run through each thing in order, not moving onto the next before she’s finished the first thing. We both get the job done, just in very different ways.

As a project manager, you’re going to be much further ahead if you do away with old school rules that say everyone has to play the game the same way, and instead trust that each person knows themselves and their working style best — especially if you’ve communicated clearly the expectations and deadlines of the project. You’ve told them what results are expected, so let them figure out how to make it work.

7. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

Each person on the project was hired or pulled in because they have a particular set of skills and strengths that make them valuable to the project. Trust that there’s room for everyone to have a role, figure out what those roles are, and delegate tasks.

Plus, you just don’t have the time to be doing others’ work for them, so delegating ensures the project can be finished at peak efficiency.

Final Thoughts

Being a successful project manager might not come naturally to you, but it’s most definitely something you can learn. It takes dedication, discipline and practice, as does mastering any other skill.

To help you get there, Tameday can make it easier for your team by combining all your needs into one central, easy-to-use spot. It features a user-friendly interface with plenty of features, like a calendar, notifications of upcoming events, an inbox, and even a private locker where you can put stuff meant for your eyes only. Check it out today by signing up for free.

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