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You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.

– Albert Einstein

Whether you are a student, an employee, or an expert project manager, you surely know that project management is a discipline of initiating, planning, executing, and managing resources to get things done.

Of course, the goals have to be accomplished within budget and time, and they have to add value to the organization. Every project manager needs to stimulate motivation and coordination.

Joy Gumz once said:

“Operations keep the lights on, strategy provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward”.

The following guidelines will help you get from a good to great project manager.

1. Be an influencer and lead by example

Team members are always carefully observing all the actions and decisions that a project manager takes.

Thus, project managers must be honest, direct, and experienced in all relations with people and with the project. That is the way to gain trust and confidence which helps the manager become a worthy leader.

A good manager knows how to grind but also remembers to have fun with the team members, and this method becomes “infectious”.

Project leaders are not those who force their views and ideas. Instead, they display qualities of fondness, care, and compassion. Even in times when you are under pressure, you must remain calm and motivate the team to improve further.

2. Learn how to gain respect and authority

That is, leaders gain power by giving it away, they don’t need a borrowed control and power in order to solicit the help of others – they just know how to do it.

They are optimistic leaders who are perceived in a favorable light and are appreciated by the organization. Project managers have to cooperate with and influence a variety of stakeholders including their project teams and project sponsors, considering them as allies and not opponents.

Since many project team members don’t report directly to the project manager, the project manager has to find ways to stimulate workers over whom they have no direct influence and who can make or break the project.

Project managers also need to be able to inspire the confidence of stakeholders in case the budget or timeline needs to be renegotiated or additional resources are needed to complete the project.

What you say, when you say and how you say it will both impart confidence and aid to inspire and stimulate. Or it will take the wind right out of your sails.

You don’t have to be an excessively wordy person, but you must articulate and communicate well. Don’t speak just to hear yourself talk and don’t ramble. If your verbal communication skills are not up to par, get help and correct the problem.

You cannot lead if you cannot communicate. In other words, the leader “walks the talk” and in that process s/he earns trust. It is very important to focus on common goals, not individual agendas. Making people feel relaxed inspires brainstorming, creative thinking, and the enthusiasm to try new ideas.

3. Master the art of people

The ability to interconnect with people at all levels is almost always named as one of the most important skills by project managers and team members.

Project management demands strong communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback. Great project managers don’t just go through the motions. They care about communication and the beliefs of the parties involved. They are also adequately self-aware to know how their communication is received by those stakeholders.

A truly cooperative project manager knows how to use the specific abilities of each team member and is capable of using the right kind of expertise to crack specific complications and problems and find resolutions. Great project managers know that getting everyone on board with the project’s strategic vision will bring out the best collaboration and that this kind of arrangement is the driver behind effective communication and a fruitful project.

Project managers also need to be good at team-building. For the effective application of any project, it is essential that the team works in harmony. Every team player deserves equal importance. Project managers should focus on the positive features of their team members, thus inculcating a consistent force amongst them. This negates the chances of conflict within a team.

4. Develop critical and strategic thinking; generate structure from the chaos

Critical thinking is fundamental to being able to make respectable choices and decisions.

You have to recognize and appreciate the situation at present in addition to recognizing the potentials. This is what differentiates a project manager who is good at managing issues to someone who floors the issues every time.

You have to recognize and appreciate the situation at present in addition to recognizing the potentials. This is what differentiates a project manager who is good at managing issues to someone who floors the issues every time.

You can construct your critical thinking skills through preparation and by arming yourself with tools and approaches to help you structure arguments logically and see things from all angles before making the final conclusion.

Also, it is very important that project managers generate structure from chaos by using specific tools such as charters, risk assessments, Gantt charts, decision matrices, and many other tools during the project. For example, Seavus’s iMindQ mind-mapping software inspires creativity, stimulates thinking and brainstorming, provokes innovation, enables visualizing of ideas, and initiates project planning, conceptualization, and modeling of processes. This mind-mapping solution encourages you to innovate and save inventive ideas and share them easily with others in a visually memorable and understandable format.

5. Accept change and minimize uncertainty

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” 

– John Maxwell

Like it or not, changes are an essential part of today’s business environment. Uncertainty is part of every project, so there will be many unexpected surprises in your profession.

You need to be flexible, adaptable and improvisational. Those employees who embrace and initiate change will thrive while those who complain and fear change may be headed for the unemployment line. Be the person who is ready for change and comes armed to the emergency meeting with strong solutions.

In the end, it is very important to remember that if you can’t find a way you need to create one. A project manager should never let fear and insecurity affect his/hers decisions.

What do you think? How do you manage your project? What tools in project management and mind-mapping do you use? Let me know in the comment section below.

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