How to Be a Better Project Manager: 81 Tips from PM Experts

April 20, 2016 Workfront Marketing

In today's professional environment, project managers are required to wear a variety of hats, shifting between the everyday functions of managing a team to understanding the big picture strategy.

Because of this, project managers have become more valuable to organizations, and the demand for their skills and strategic roles has grown worldwide. But this also raises the question: how to be a project manager, and a good one, in such a high-pressure environment?


See our post called "Problems All Project Managers Face in Communicating With Senior Management" to learn how to decrease some of the pressure that comes with working with management.


Unfortunately, there is no single attribute that makes someone a fantastic project manager. Instead, a talented PM will have many skill sets, including having a collaborative approach, managing timelines and budgets, improving productivity, etc.

Whether you're just starting your career or struggling with your current management style, we have some great insights for you.

Below is a list of 81 insights from project managers currently working in the PPM industry. Some work for major corporations and others for small businesses.

Regardless, their tips and recommendations provide you with an insider's perspective to better understand the role of a project manager and will help you gather ideas to implement with your own team.

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Communication

"I don't begin a project until I fully understand it. This means that I will sit with project sponsors and not proceed until I have nailed down their vision." - Michiko Diby

1. Facilitate Effective Communication - Liz Helbock, senior director, program management at Events.com, notes that priorities and project plans will change. Deadlines will be missed. Scope will increase. Communication must stay consistent.

Emails, meetings, status reports, project plans—these are all just tools for facilitating effective communication. As project managers, we must work to keep those lines of communication open to ensure we have all the details to report back to executives and stakeholders.

2. Manage Expectations With Your Project Stakeholders - The last thing you want to do is surprise your project stakeholders. Instead, be proactive by warning them beforehand about a situation or challenge that may have occurred.

Let them know the possible consequences, and present your plan of action moving forward to rectify the problem. - Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation and principle at Bizexe

3. Have a Communication Plan - Put a communication plan in place and measure its effectiveness periodically throughout the project. - Myles Miller, Lead Up

4. Control the Process and the Language - Projects spin out of control because of (no surprise here) a lack of control. Failure to understand the process leads to chaos. A failure to understand why the process is in place leads to a lack of conformity. And a key element of any process is the language that is used.

If we control the language, we have a better chance of controlling the culture of our projects. - Carl Pritchard, PMP, PMI-RMP

5. Streamline Communication - An estimated $35+ billion are wasted each year on meetings. Instead, minimize the number and length of meetings as much as possible. Exercise restraint by setting no more than one meeting per day. Consider making it a virtual meeting via Google Hangouts. - Grayson De Ritis, De Ritis Media

Make the most of your meetings with these five tips for effective meetings.

CLICK TO TWEET - 49% of workers say unfocused meetings are their biggest workplace time-waster.

6. Listen First - There are many levels of listening, the most ideal coming from a place of empathy, genuineness, and mindful presence. A great project manager listens to stakeholders, product owners, and teammates free from his or her own personal views.

Take cues from the speaker's tone and body language, and help the speaker move through what he or she is expressing. - Cindy Calvin, marketing project manager for Veterans United Home Loans

7. Filter Irrelevant or Trivial Information - A good project manager must be able to identify exactly what the client wants or needs and then filter out all the irrelevant information. Relay only what is necessary to complete the job. - David Revees, Luxe Translation Services

8. Set Clear Action Items - Walk away from every meeting with a clear set of action items. Summarize for everyone involved who is responsible for what action item after the meeting.

Set clear expectations for completion of action items, and for project tasks and milestones later, according to the priorities of stakeholders and the business. - Cindy Calvin, marketing project manager for Veterans United Home Loans

9. Win Support of Senior Executives by Talking Their Language - Talk about profit growth, not budget; talk about time to market, not schedules; talk about opportunity, not risk. Research shows that senior management support is one of the most important factors in project success. - Paul Naybour, Parallel Project Training

10. Communicate More Than You Think Necessary - People need to hear an idea several times before they start to believe it. With so much business communication these days, people constantly filter things out and skim newsletters.

Elizabeth Harrin, author of the Girl's Guide to PM, says it helps to have the same message in a variety of formats delivered by different people. It's a massive help to have people in senior positions, like a boss or project sponsor, reinforce your message.

Even though you think you've told your stakeholders about the project, they probably don't know as much about it as you think they should—which is understandable as they don't "live" in it the same way that you do.

Make sure your project communication plans include enough time to repeat your message without becoming annoying.

KEY TAKEAWAY - When talking to your team, superiors, or stakeholders, remember to keep it simple and always offer a solution. Specify the actions required of them and keep reporting on the status of the project.

11. Be Transparent - An exceptional project manager maximizes transparency and doesn't use information as a means of control. They communicate clearly, completely, and concisely, all the while giving others real information without fear of what they'll do with it. - William Bauer, managing director at Royce Leather

12. Continuously Discuss Your Risk Management Plan With Your Team - Keep the discussion about risk at the forefront of your project team's mind by discussing it at team meetings. - Myles Miller, Lead Up

13. Empower Others to Fix Issues Themselves - Many project managers want to bulldog their way into getting the vendors to do what they want them to do. If a project manager is not satisfied with an update, they will directly escalate the issue to management.

Instead, empower the person you're working with to fix the issue themselves to resolve the problem. - Thomas Wooldridge, Relamark.com

14. Sort Out Problems Early - A simple but routine project control cycle enables you to sort out problems early, before they get out of hand. It also builds and maintains commitment from within the team and improves communication. - Paul Naybour, Parallel Project Training

15. Learn to be Self Aware and Accepting of Criticism - Greg Smith, project manager at Brailsford & Dunlavey, says he often sees project managers get very set in their ways. They don't talk about the importance of understanding who you are and where you could improve, and working to build different attributes.

Project management can be very result driven, which is good. But if you deliver on the project objectives, much of the time you aren't given feedback, or you don't pay attention to constructive criticism. Instead, focus on being self-aware and accepting of criticism.

Time Management and Productivity

16. Create Standardized Templates - Create standardized systems, processes, and methods, or you'll find yourself making mistakes, missteps, and wasting time on the project. Businesses without templates typically see a failure rate that ranges from 10 to 30 errors per 100 opportunities.

Create all-inclusive templates that include all phases of work from start to finish. For example: 1) content creation, 2) storyboarding, 3) visual creation, 4) editing, 5) finishing touches such as voice over, music, etc., 6) production, and 7) approval.

17. Analyze the Project's "Critical Path" - Career and small business strategist Mike McRitchie suggests noting the tasks that must happen in a particular order, the project's "critical path," and making sure you tightly manage those handoff points.

These are the places where projects can be delayed and where the cumulative effect is a missed project deadline.

18. Start with the Problem You Are Trying to Solve - Every project needs a clear end goal. What is the need for this product/project? What problem are we trying to solve? When you identify the problem, you must also identify a clear definition of what it looks like to solve the problem.

Defining success metrics means measurable goals and a clear finish line. - Cindy Calvin, Veterans United Home Loans

19. Become the Time Management Guru - I truly believe you can never be too good at managing your time. Even though I'm a project manager, I still idolize our VP of operations' seemingly effortless ability to manage her time, even if she's completely swamped, sick, or on vacation.

I try to be more like her in how I manage multiple projects, teams, and responsibilities. Even more, I take pride in how well I manage my time (even if it's a struggle at times!).

Constantly work on being a superhero for project managers, and you'll never run out of ways to improve yourself. - Rosie Brown, Sterling Communications

20. Set Clear Expectations for Change-Orders With Difficult Clients - Creative teams and in-house agencies must develop standards to create client accountability. Client behaviors are a challenge for 72 percent of creative service teams because there is no recourse for misuse or abuse.

Because of this, it's important to define how many hours a standard task should take. If there is any increase in job duties or the job is sent back into the work queue, there will be an additional monetary charge.

Being clear upfront will help with difficult clients who, with their constant revisions and scope changes, can turn a two day project into a three week project.

CLICK TO TWEET - Client behaviors are a challenge for 72% of creative service teams because there is no recourse for misuse or abuse.

21. Take Advantage of Time Management Software for Your Team - One of the main goals as a project manager is to be extremely organized.

To help organize your internal or external clients, use a project management tool to help your team manage the workflow of a project, assign tasks, and update the progress throughout the lifecycle of the project.

Sure, we might be biased, but Workfront's Project Management Software is likely a great option for your company!

22. Set Realistic Expectations to Avoid Project Delays - Successful projects require realistic expectations, built-in buffer time, and a back up plan.

23. Use Data to Counter a Client's Unrealistic Expectations - Often the client will want you to deliver sooner.

If you have steps in the project that take a certain amount of time that are known and outside your control or influence, make sure to walk the client through those steps with concrete data points to support your suggested forecast. - Mike McRitchie, career and small business strategist

24. Create a Schedule Template for Your Clients - When you're setting the date to meet your objective, sub-deadlines, and milestones, be sure to include client tasks and delivery dates.

The client must also understand they are accountable for keeping the project on track and will need to approve subtasks and other duties on time. Develop a schedule template to share with them that shows each task, when it's due, and who is responsible for its completion.

25. Track Your Team's Time - Less than half of in-house agencies track their time. Due to this, it's hard to establish accurate estimates for knowing how long a project will take or how many resource hours you'll need.

By tracking your team's time for the project, you'll have a solid estimate on the average time specific tasks take. You'll know how much time projects took in the past, and you'll be able to use that information to gauge the average speed of each team member for each project.

This is important when deciding how much time to allocate for each team member in the future.

Company Culture and Building your Community

"The role of the PM is first and foremost to create an environment in which the PM's team can be successful—nothing more, nothing less." - Chris Field

26. Establish Shared Beliefs - The more people involved, the more critical to establish shared beliefs. It mitigates the risk of the vision mutating from person to person like a game of telephone, and it takes the process from an abstract idea to an achievable outcome. - Doug Cooper, Trubelo.com

27. Build Relationships With Your Team - Don't let a launch date signify your end of a working relationship with a team you found to be of high value. Set up a happy hour, dinner, coffee—anything really.

Talk about how everything went and what could have been done better. Ask what they thought about your management style. - Grayson De Ritis, De Ritis Media

Learn more about which personalities kill productivity and hurt company culture.

28. Pull in Support from Everyone - Support of senior executives and customers and buy-in from project teams is critical to the success of projects. Projects are a very dynamic situation and so support of all the key people in the organization is really important in keeping things moving.

This is especially true when things go wrong. - Paul Naybour, Parallel Project Training

29. Show Gratitude - This is probably the most important part which often gets overlooked. Many people feel they have thankless jobs, and compliments can make a person feel really good.

Go out of your way and thank them. Leave a positive review on their LinkedIn profile. Tell their boss what a great job they did. - Thomas Wooldridge, Relamark.com

30. Hold a Collaborative Team Meeting - Tara Mulhern and her team at WebTek have a weekly meeting to discuss current and new projects and make assignments based on workload. These meetings are to make sure everyone is on task to meet their deliverables.

Check out these six tips for holding a more effective status meeting without wasting everyone's time.

31. Form Positive Relationships with Your Stakeholders - Having a communications plan is not enough.

Yes, understanding how to navigate the communication protocols and establishing them early on keeps people informed, but ultimately, establishing and maintaining relationships are what lead to the most comprehensive understanding and buy-in on teams. - Greg Smith, project manager at Brailsford & Dunlavey

32. Reach Out to Your Network - Peter Taylor, The Lazy Project Manager, recommends reaching out to the amazing network of project managers around the world, whether that be through books, podcasts, blogs, Twitter (#PMOT), LinkedIn (connections and groups), conferences and webinars, and much, much more.

"I have personally found such a wealth of knowledge outside and such a generous spirit amongst our peers to share this knowledge—capitalize on this to become a better a project manager."

33. Work on Your Interpersonal Skills & Build Relationships - Project management is a relationship building job. People enjoy working with and doing things for those they like. Being likable is all about how you relate to others.

Since all project work gets done through people, it behooves a project manager to be good at working with others. - Ben Snyder, Systemation and Thomas Wooldridge, Relamark.com

Take time to also build and nurture client relationships.

34. Share Your Experiences with Others - Don't take up 15 minutes of your team's time to tell everyone how your daughter is the most amazing soccer player ever (although she might be).

Instead, take the opportunity to chat before meetings, during hallway conversations, and when you drop by to see your team members, to share some of your interests with them. But first, ask them about themselves. - Margaret Meloni, PM Student

35. Use Tools and Methodologies to Enhance Your Project Culture - The core value that an effective project manager brings to the table is an ability to cultivate an effective project culture, in an environment where collaboration can thrive.

Tie this with an understanding of a wide array of tools, techniques, and methodologies, with a conscious application of where they may support the needs of the team, and you have created a powerful, high-performing team. - Jim Brosseau, Clarrus

36. Be a Well-Rounded Person - Margaret Meloni, president of Meloni Coaching Solutions, Inc., says if you want to be a better and more well-rounded project manager, you have to be a more well-rounded person. Don't forget to keep learning.

Yes, you are busy and you have that all-consuming project (or projects), plus family and friends, too. But well-rounded does not mean "only able to talk about work" or "only able to discuss project management."

Participate in some volunteer work. Have a cause you're passionate about. Take on a hobby, even if right now that hobby is coaching your daughter's soccer team. Read. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts while you commute or while you exercise.

Framework, Workflow, and Project Schedule

37. Remove Obstacles and Other Distractions - When working with your project team members, assign work so it is completed in the most efficient order possible, ensure work that is a predecessor to other work is fully completed, and remove the obstacles that prevent team members from getting their work done. - Ben Snyder, Systemation.

Check out our guide to managing your work to help you manage your workload.

38. Set Subtask Deadlines - Build in a buffer and follow up prior to your soft and hard deadlines. Human nature tends to wait for a deadline to begin a task (think cramming for exams). - Mike McRitchie, career and small business strategist

Instead, learn how to help your team meet project deadlines.

39. Practice Perseverance - The journey toward achieving project deliverables can be quite long and filled with many setbacks. The more time that passes and the more failures encountered, the more the objectives and scope will be questioned.

As the "battle cry weakens," actions become more reactive and desperate, potentially taking the team further off course. To safeguard against this, emphasize perseverance of the original project objectives, scope, and justification. - Doug Cooper, Trubelo.com

40. Complete a Project Charter as Thoroughly as Possible - It becomes the foundational document that you will need to refer back to throughout the project. - Myles Miller, Lead Up

41. Stay on Top of the Gaps - Look over the project plan each week and identify the gaps in your project. Pay attention to scope, time, cost, and where you should be via your deadlines and project objectives.

Once you identify the gaps, take the necessary actions to close them. Don't let weeks or months go by where you do not deal with your gaps, or they may get too big to overcome. - Ben Snyder, Systemation

Get untwisted and untangled with these project management fixes.

42. Act on Your Plans - Everything becomes real once we begin executing the tasks. We can't hide in the abstract world of objectives, scope, and timelines. Positive outcomes flow from our efforts, and so we have to put ourselves out there to make mistakes and be judged and criticized. - Doug Cooper, Trubelo.com

43. Find Ways to Curb Scope Creep - Scope creep, or uncontrolled adjustments and changes to a project, is a real problem. "One more thing" and "a tiny favor" are both well-meaning terms that can quickly turn into weeks or months-long delays, thousands of dollars over budget, and more.

Rosie Brown, creative project manager at Sterling Communications, recommends these tips to curb scope creep—for both your client's and your team's sanity:

  • Mentally include another round of revisions, feedback, or some other additional step before you have the client sign off on a budget and scope.
  • Embrace feedback, but define what is and is not on the critical path.
  • Let your clients know when an additional request they have is not in their best interest.

44. Be a "Yes" Leader - As project managers, it's our job to give options. We will always be presented with the impossible, improbable, highly unlikely, and the completely unreasonable. It's our job to figure out what can be done and provide options.

Lead with "yes." Yes, you can move up the deadline... but it will require either a major reduction of scope and/or an increase in staffing. If you present all of the possible options and the impact, the asker can usually come up with the "no" answer on their own. - Liz Helbock, Events.com

45. Build Early Contractor Involvement - External contractors are important to the delivery of small and large projects. All too often organizations don't get contractors involved in projects until it is too late.

Inviting them to review the approach early can pay dividends with new ideas or innovative ways of delivering projects. - Paul Naybour, Parallel Project Training

46. Build in Early Warning Systems - What are key gates or milestones you must hit in order to ensure the project is on track?

Building in a warning system to make sure you're on top of the little things ensures a project that is on time and under budget. - Mike McRitchie, career and small business strategist

KEY TAKEAWAY - Map out milestones throughout the life of the project, including all the tasks involved and when they are due.

47. Make a Stakeholder Management Plan - Make sure to have a stakeholder management plan and constantly review and revise it throughout the project. - Myles Miller, Lead Up

48. Share Why the Due Date is the Due Date - Every new project manager confronts the issue of someone on your project missing a deadline or deliverable. Remember to communicate early and often with each person on your team to achieve the best results.

Say to your team: "Phyllis, here's the schedule. We'll need that document from you next Tuesday." Then add, to be a great project manager, " … because Margaret starts on the graphic design Wednesday."

Sharing why the due date is the due date and what happens next has a huge, positive impact. - Gwendolyn Kestrel, Digital Advertising Works

49. Review and Learn From the Project - At some point in the project cycle or afterward, the question "could we have done something better?" will emerge. This is the moment to say, "we want this, we're doing this, and this happened—how can we work smarter?" 

The better we are at compiling and using lessons learned from the current and past projects, the greater chance we have at achieving projects in the future. - Doug Cooper, Trubelo.com

Learn how to stop pointing fingers and create a stronger team.

50. Carefully Craft Strategic Timelines and Budgets - Project managers will always be tasked with managing timelines and budgets, but digging into those factors and gaining a well-rounded, strategic view of the project will help teams to find better ways of working and meet project goals with ease. - Brett Harned, digital project management consultant, coach, and community advocate

Leadership and Collaboration

"Leadership is setting a new direction or vision for a group to follow, while management is controlling resources in a group according to defined standards." - Peter Taylor

 

51. Pay Close Attention to Detail - For those starting out, paying close attention to detail is important to ensure deadlines are met. There are many moving targets to a project that need to be monitored.

Also, don't be afraid to follow up with necessary staff regarding a status update to a project. You don't want to annoy them, but you need to be informed throughout each step. - Joe Madelone, Overit

52. Identify Each Team Member's Strengths and Weaknesses - To be a better project manager, you must be intimately familiar with each team member's strengths and weaknesses. David Revees, project manager at Luxe Translation Services, takes time to familiarize himself with each person's talents on his team.

By knowing who would and who wouldn't be good for the job, he can better predict what challenges may arise.

53. Believe in Yourself - According to Johanna Rothman, management consultant at Rothman Consulting Group, Inc, becoming a better project manager takes guts and initiative.

Consider what your unique circumstances are, for this project, at this company, with these people. What do you need to consider, to make the best of that situation?

Check out these lessons project managers share about project leadership.

54. Don't Forget that You're in the Business of Helping People - It's easy to obsess over time, budget, and scope management—after all, that's our job! But beyond all that, project managers are there to help people.

We help both our teams and our clients stay on track, prevent them from getting overwhelmed, and protect them from opening cans of worms. - Rosie Brown, Sterling Communications

55. Don't Overreact or Lose Your Cool - VHT Studios warns against overreacting because it will show you're not cut out for the role of project manager. Plus, sometimes you just need to hear people out. Not everything needs to be fixed right away, and being a sounding board for team members can build trust.

56. Believe in Your Team and Your Project - A misplaced ill word about a team member or project will bury a project more quickly than a budget cut. One of the project manager's key roles is to be an honest and sincere cheerleader for the project and the organization.

It's not a matter of blind cheerleading. It's a matter of finding what's right in the project and team performance and highlighting that to everyone around us. - Carl Pritchard, PMP, PMI-RMP

57. Jump Right In - When it comes to working on a new project or with a new client, take the leap and jump in... but be mindful of whose toes you're stepping on. You don't want to alienate your peers, especially when you're in a shared leadership role. - VHT Studios

58. Enroll and Support the People Around You - While you are tasked to manage the work, remember that you must consider the people doing it. If you don't enroll and support the people you need to count on, the most well thought out project plan will be fraught with unnecessary problems. - Marian Thier, Expanding Thought

59. Don't Take Anything for Granted—Be Prepared for Anything - Joe Madelone, director of operations at Overit, warns seasoned professionals not to take anything for granted. Problems and issues can still arise on a project even when you feel as though you have a seasoned pulse on the status.

KEY TAKEAWAY:

  • Empathize with your team. Most leaders spent time in the trenches. Use your past experience to talk with your team to get the most out of them.
  • Listen to and involve your team. Listen to what the client, your superiors, and your team have to say so you know how to react when problems arise.
  • Fight for creative time. Make sure your creative teams have enough time to work their magic.

60. Work from a Perspective of Service - In all that you do, in both action and words, lead by example as a servant leader. Focus first on the needs of your team, your stakeholders, your product owners, and your clients.

Do you have their best interest at heart? Are you helping them grow and meet their goals? By keeping your focus on altruism, you will naturally become the best version of yourself, both professionally and personally. - Cindy Calvin, Veterans United Home Loans

61. Remember, Failure is More Than Just One Factor - Maureen O'Gorman, project manager for IT, web, and digital efforts, says the "what went wrong" analysis always looks to find the single root cause of failure. If you look at it closely, planes never crash because of one factor. Rather, it is a confluence of circumstances. 

A project that failed in Agile might have succeeded in Waterfall, but a project manager needs to ask why the decision was made to go with Agile and what would be the right decision for next time: a better Agile implementation or a different methodology.

It's always a combination of factors and circumstances, and they need to be studied together.

Check out our piece, "How to Use Agile for Marketing Project Management."

62. Develop Junior Staff - If you have junior level staff assigned to your project, teach them how to be an effective project manager rather than assign them multiple tasks. Not only are you helping the company to grow by preparing the next generation, you're making life 10 times easier for yourself.

Now this junior staff member is learning to respond, take ownership, and be a leader, rather than accomplish individual tasks. - Greg Smith, project manager at Brailsford & Dunlavey

63. Pull Ideas from Everyone - A project manager is not a boss and doesn't know all the answers to all the challenges. Instead, they are a facilitator and guide who flattens any hierarchy that may exist in the organization when addressing the project challenges.

Everyone, especially PMs, should contribute with a "we are always smarter than I" attitude. - Jim Brosseau, Clarrus

64. Take Time to Understand the Job Duties of Your Team - The project manager must be somewhat familiar with what each employee does. I'm not saying they should be experts in all the details, but they should be able to figure out 90 percent of the job if the employee left tomorrow.

If you don't know how to do the job yourself, then you have no business managing it. - David Revees, Luxe Translation Services

65. Delegate Tasks to Your Team and Provide Support - Peter Taylor, The Lazy Project Manager, advises project managers to step back, reflect, and consider their schedule over the next week or so.

Then objectively consider if you really need to be on that call on Tuesday, in that meeting on Wednesday, part of that team discussion on Thursday, and so on.

Ask yourself the critical question: "have you effectively delegated to your project team members?"

Use any resulting free time to proactively engage with your project team to raise team spirit, reinforce the "visibility of purpose" of the project, or just go around telling people that they are doing a great job.

66. Embrace a Preventative Mindset - Project managers often get awarded for "putting out fires" and resolving issues. However, the real question they should be asking themselves is: "why did the problem occur in the first place and was it preventable?"

Exploring project difficulties early and often with appropriate stakeholders will alleviate 80 percent of problems later down the line. - Greg Smith, project manager at Brailsford & Dunlavey

67. Encourage Collaboration Within Your Team - Becoming a project manager is a lifelong journey of learning and growing an appreciation of the value of others' contributions, with a significant dose of humility.

A great project manager helps the entire team collaborate to solve the project challenges they face. - Jim Brosseau, Clarrus

KEY TAKEAWAY - Encourage your team to share their thoughts and ideas. Make meetings count and don't waste time setting blame. Instead, get right down to collaboration and state the challenge you're facing and how you're going to solve it.

68. Be a Fearless Project Manager - Issues—large or small—do not phase project managers, because they are true problem solvers. If they can't solve an issue alone, they know when and how to pull in the right people to solve them.

They also know that if they don't address issues head on, they'll turn into bigger, long-term headaches that will impact a project's success as well as their credibility as team leaders. Good project managers are fearless - Brett Harned, digital project management consultant, coach, and community advocate

CLICK TO TWEET - Issues don't phase project managers, b/c they are problem solvers. Good project managers are fearless.

69. Leverage Your Team's Collective Strengths - The path to becoming a better project manager is based on increasing your awareness and appreciation of yourself and others on the team—your strengths and skills, your interests, your feelings, your experience—and collaboratively understanding how to leverage these collective strengths to address the challenges of the project at hand. - Jim Brosseau, Clarrus

Management Tools and Resources

70. Never Let the Approval Process Get Off Track - Give ample time for the approval and include the consequence of inaction.

Use a variety of reminders, sending one by email, including a task (if using Outlook) reminder, or setting a short appointment time in their calendars with "No Meeting—Reserved for Project X Approval."

For the stakeholder who typically misses deadlines, if they're not central, include "please review by the end of the day next Monday. If I don't hear from you by then, I'll assume we're good to move forward."

If you absolutely need their approval, state the bottom line that's at stake: "Please review by the end of the day next Monday. If I don't hear from you by then, the project can't meet the publication date." - Gwendolyn Kestrel, Digital Advertising Works

71. Utilize Online Tools Such as ProofHQ and Dropbox - ProofHQ is a quick and efficient way to manage content review and approvals.

Instead of emailing attachments and revisions back and forth between clients, creative services, and account executives, you can keep your entire team up to date with this online proofing tool.

Fewer revisions will help make your team more effective.

Dropbox is another excellent tool to allow you to keep the files safe between you and a client. These files can be accessed anywhere versus just on the network in your office, will always be synchronized, and you can easily share documents, photos, and videos. - Tara Mulhern, Webtek

72. Be Willing to Take on Any Task That's Thrown at You - The big mistake a lot of project managers make is to think that they're "management." The reality is that they're responsible to ensure the work gets done. Getting things done means you're willing, as required, to take on any role within the project environment.

You are the new generalist. The new factotum. A willingness to take on virtually any role is crucial to project management success. (And knowing when to delegate that role to someone else is pretty important, too.) - Carl Pritchard, PMP, PMI-RMP

73. Go Beyond Email Communication - Today, project management tools and practices are more functional than ever. Find a tool that takes your collaboration to the next level.

Workfront captures all communication in one spot, allows you to communicate around specific projects, and keeps all key assets within the same communication stream.

Rather than filing emails you'll never see again into folders, find a tool that helps you to centralize and streamline your processes.

74. Use Word Pictures - A tip given to me for use when applying for jobs is helpful in projects too.

If I have a long request for proposal (RFP), inquiry, or email to respond to, I'll often create a tag cloud of the text and another one of my draft response to see if we are using the same language and placing the same stress on the particulars being discussed.

By generating a tag cloud, a project manager can really see what words and concepts the client thinks are important. That can help head off hard feelings down the road. - Maureen O'Gorman, project manager for IT, web, and digital efforts

Further Advice and Inspiration

75. Project Management is an Art and a Science - Through her career, Liz Helbock, Events.com, has encountered people who've earned their Project Management Professional Certification (PMP) and are completely ineffective at being project managers.

In addition, she's also encountered project managers that have never picked up the PMBOK and can successfully manage multiple projects at once, and they've never held the title of project manager.

The PMBOK/PMP is the "science"... it's what you do with it that's the "art."

76. Sympathize with People's Emotional Resistance to Change, But Continue to Move Things Forward - When implementing a new process, there's always a phase when users find the older methods easier and more familiar.

Project managers need to be aware and supportive of their teams' adjustments to new processes. It can be an emotional time, and some sympathy will go a long way. However, continue to move the project forward and don't get bogged down in a period of "mourning."

A project manager can't expect additional training or charts with statistics to overcome what is essentially an emotional response to something new.

"While users can't be allowed to stay in the valley of despair, a short trip through it is a part of any project and to be acknowledged." - Maureen O'Gorman, project manager for IT, web, and digital efforts

77. Commit to Act, Don't Just Say "I Believe." - Similar to when we plan a significant financial purchase, we can understand the desired transaction inside and out, but until the investment is made, it's nothing more than a good idea.

The act of committing must be more than simply saying "I believe." - Doug Cooper, Trubelo.com

78. Learn From Other Project Managers - Seek professional development in webinars, online courses, blog posts (or tips articles like this one!), and project manager networks to find out how other PMs are successfully managing their teams, scopes, budgets, and time.

I learned a lot about improving my project management worksheets by comparing notes with other project managers who work in different companies in completely different industries! - Rosie Brown, Sterling Communications

79. Take Time to Reflect on the Project - Create lessons learned throughout the project—document and retain them to reflect on at its conclusion. Then archive your thoughts for future reflection before the next projects start. - Myles Miller, Lead Up

80. Avoid Missing Market Research - If a project starts without understanding who will want the final product—and what it is they will want—it's doomed from the beginning. Successful projects have complete visibility into the quality of their products and the needs of the customer.

81. Understand the Challenges of Managing Internal and External Teams - Working as a project manager from a home office can be challenging for some and requires a self disciplined individual with a dedication to the internal and external teams and stakeholders.

You will be dealing with very little face-to-face time, different time zones and often language barriers as more and more companies have a global presence. - Lola M Barnett, commercial operations analyst at Medtronic

Conclusion

Now that you've read these 81 tips, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. With so much great advice, where do you even start?

One approach is to choose the top three you find most helpful and apply them to your own project management style. Over time you can implement other tips, make adjustments, and decide for yourself what works best.

Like what you've read? Don't forget to share on your LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.


Download our free Project Manager Toolkit for more tips and tricks for succeeding at your job.

About the Author

Workfront Marketing

Workfront brings you the best content in project management, agile marketing practice, and project management tips and tricks.

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