(A guest post by Kristen Riley, of Villanova University)
So, about a week ago, I wrote a piece where I began what I expect to be a long ramble on soft skills that would span multiple blog posts. Well, this week I received a mail from a reader who offered her own take on project leadership, and she wrote it much more succinctly than I could have. I enjoyed her article very much, and am thrilled to present it to you here. It is my very great pleasure to introduce you to Kristen Riley of Villanova University, and her advice on leadership skills for project managers.
Project managers do much more than mange projects. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Project managers must develop strong teams in order to achieve project success.
Teams rely on their project manager’s leadership for guidance and encouragement. They’ll respond positively to quality leadership, by building stronger relationships and rising to project challenges. Arm yourself with these six critical leadership skills to help propel a winning team:
1. Develop Structure
Successful project managers develop a structured outline of the project vision for the team. Each person should be clear on the direction, the timing and how you plan on reaching project success.
Create a project-specific document, in addition to the standard documents outlining roles and responsibilities. This is especially helpful when working with new team members and provides an opportunity for group bonding.
In the document include as many of the following elements as possible:
- team biographies
- individual & team roles
- personal anecdote
Additionally, track and rate each team member; follow performance regarding specific assignments and overall-project contribution.
2. Clearly Communicate
Communication can make or break a project. Clear, consistent communication can be challenging, but it’s important to insist on in steady communication from the beginning.
With the vast communication technologies available, it may be beneficial to develop a communication plan. The plan can include any components you wish: Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, video conferencing and other social networking tools, email and phone calls.
Leverage what you have available to create an efficient and effective mode of communication between team members and departments. It’s a good idea to have a singular place to make notes, post documents and otherwise record communications for the entire project team to access.
3. Lead by Example
Basically this means following up on your responsibilities identified in your plan. For project members to feel confident in you, they must see you as someone who follows through, is available and helpful, and who has a positive attitude. Lead your team by example, and they will respond accordingly.
4. Encourage Trust
Trust is vital to project success. An important factor in establishing trust is following through on commitments. Planned or verbal commitments must be completed. All team members, including the project manager, must respond in a timely fashion to all requests, and offer assistance when needed.
5. Provide Motivation
Motivation is often overlooked in office settings. It shouldn’t be. A strong leader knows when to offer motivation and how to deliver. Regardless of the project or team size, everyone can use a bit of encouragement along the way.
Making progress? Point it out, show your pride in your team. It’s not always easy to make things run smoothly.
Project off track? Pinpoint what’s going wrong and execute a plan to fix it. But be truthful, lying is often more transparent than we think and can be detrimental to motivation.
6. Be Reliable
This is a lot like “leading by example” above. But as a project manager you must be reliable. Without the team buy-in on the project and how it’s being managed, there’s no way to succeed. Offer guidance, suggestions and resources that you can deliver. Avoid making promises you know you can’t keep. Managing a team that believes in your abilities and your competence is invaluable, but it takes work to maintain.
With these six essential leadership steps, you’ll increase efficiency and team performance, and encourage early deliverables leading to successful project completion. Engaging and connecting with your team helps facilitate these skills and builds stronger, more positive relationships.