I read all the books. I watched my previous managers do it. And then it happened. I was given my first project to manage. All the excitement and all the fears, mixed into one emotion. Doing it for the first time. As they say, “You will never forget your first.” I had many misconceptions as how a project manager should do their job, and most of my assumptions were wrong. Here are the things I learned managing my first project.
You Become The Point Person
When I was being managed I played a supportive role. But now being the project manager, I become the focal point of the project. Everything passes through you and revolves around you. You will become the point person for every detail of the project. Before I knew it, I was leading my own meetings, asking for follow-up from team members, and generally managing all of the resources assigned to the project team. At first it was a little overwhelming, but as I went on it began to feel normal.
Being the point person also means becoming the voice of the team. It’s a lot of responsibility, too – as a project manager, your mistakes will not only be yours alone.
Being Perfectionist Is A NO NO
I am a perfectionist by nature. In my personal life I am really focused on order and perfection but when it comes to project management being a perfectionist will only do your team harm. Being a perfectionist manager will have a negative impact on your team’s productivity and morale. I learned this the hard way! Focus on the result, instead.
You Don’t Always Have The Answer
It always happens without fail. Someone asks you a question and you have no idea what the answer could be. Always remember that it’s okay to say “I don’t know, let me double check it first.” It’s not a crime not to know! Even if you know the answer to something, ti’s good practice to let the message sink in before answering. There’s value in being conscientious. It is better to seek help and find the right answer than giving the wrong one.
Being honest and thinking before speaking will earn you the respect of your team, too.
You Don’t Just Manage Projects. You Also Manage People
The most important role of a manager is getting the project done on time and on budget. To achieve this you need to manage the people behind the project: the “role players.” When I was first tasked to lead my first project I realized that hardest task of a project manager is actually managing your team.
I witnessed many team member interactions during my first few meetings as a project manager. Be they painfully long, at times awkwardly silent, or consist of irate team members uncharacteristically lashing out at one another, a good project manager is able to smoothly manage those interactions. The backbone of the project are the people on the team. It is very vital to manage them correctly for the success of the project.
My advice is always keep lines of communication open. This enables a fluid exchange of ideas and feedback. Being open and honest with each project team member sets the tone for all further interaction and encourages transparency, too.
Moat Importantly: It’s Rewarding
This job is very rewarding in spite of all the responsibilities that come along with being a project manager. It’s not for the faint of heart, or people who are afraid to be in charge and take the lead. For people who assume responsibility, stay strong in the face of adversity and difficult odds, you will love this job.
Throughout the life of a project the project manager may need to make tough decisions, but when you’ve put everything you have into properly initiating and planning a project, then mindfully executing while carefully monitoring and controlling it, you and your team will succeed – and there’s no greater feeling than successfully finishing a project.