The job description for a project manager is almost endless, but leadership is a constant theme. While there are many people who claim to understand and teach leadership skills, the truth is that being a good leader is part art, part skill and part experience.
As a project manager matures, it becomes more clear that successful leadership is founded on developing a good team. While you spend much of your time setting expectations for your team, the top leaders know what their team expects from them, too. Otherwise, you might be the worst project manager ever, and not even know it!
The following are eight things that most teams expect from their project managers.
1. Guide the project plan
This sounds obvious, but a fundamental thing project teams expect is for you to provide for them with direction. Your job is not to set the plan in motion and sit back complacently. Your team looks to you for guidance about how to get the project completed successfully, throughout the entire lifecycle of the project. Your guidance falls into two categories: the effort required to plan the project and also the ability to guide the strategic vision for the project to maintain engagement during the challenges.
Make sure your team always has access to an up-to-date project plan and also that you share the changing goals and objectives for the project on a regular basis.
2. Utter confidence in the plan…and the team
The project team expects you to display genuine confidence in your own abilities to manage the project and also in the idea that the project can be achieved with this particular team for this particular project. Some team members may also look to you for reassurance that they are capable of fulfilling their roles on the project and derive their confidence in their own abilities from you (assuming, of course, that you do believe they can do the job).
When you effectively lead a team, you help build the confidence of the team meaningfully, not artificially. Your team doesn’t need a cheerleader, they need a coach.
3. Data, data, data
Another major necessity for any project team is that they are able to turn to you for up-to-date information. You are their primary source of data for all things project-related. That could be anything from company policies, to project processes on how to manage risks, to detailed knowledge about a project deliverable. This doesn’t mean that you have to be available personally for every question about the project. Setting up data repositories with your project plans, and empowering your team to search the available resources you have already provided them, is the best practice.
4. Pipeline to project sponsor
You want to create a pipeline between the project sponsor (or company leadership) and your team for several reasons. If there’s a problem or a risk, team members escalate that knowledge to you and expect you to escalate it to the sponsor. More than that, however, your team expects you to make connections to the sponsor to facilitate transparency and project collaboration, and to support their access to leadership for networking opportunities.
Your goal is also to create opportunities for the project sponsor to demonstrate their appreciation for the team’s work. Set up a couple meetings in your calendar during the project to invite all parties to connect, share project successes and learn from institutional knowledge.
5. Model time management
Motivating your team to fill out timesheets is best done when you model excellent time management behavior yourself. Easier said than done. While there are many methods and gurus out there promoting time management tips for the generalist (these time-management tips from celeb Chris Hardwick were acually quite helpful), your team expects you to set the tone for how work happens on this particular project. So make sure they see you using task lists, completing your timesheet and managing your time well at work. It should go without saying, but being timely is vital for professionalism in general, but is especially true for project managers. You know well the value of an hour. Make sure you’re honoring others’ time as well.
6. Support for work-life balance
Online collaboration and mobile access has enabled nearly 24/7 contact with our home and work life. While for some companies, this is “just doing business today,” it doesn’t have to be. Your team expects to be able to get home at a reasonable hour and to be able to switch off their phones on the weekends. They understand that on occasion they’ll need to do a bit extra and make a little more effort every so often – that’s the nature of project work. But in the main they shouldn’t be asked to stay late every night and to always expect you to call them on the weekends. If that’s the only way you think you can get the project done, you need to re-evaluate whether your resource allocation is reasonable, or whether you’re managing risks effectively.
Also, your project team members expect to have fun at work, on occasion. They’ll look to you to set the tone for this, too. You could gamify parts of your project, if you’re not averse to creating internal competition. Or just take time for general goofiness. In short, don’t be a killjoy: work-life balance is fundamentally about balance.
7. Ongoing training opportunities
There are a myriad number of ways you can support your team’s professional development, and smart leaders know that when they actively promote training opportunities, they see improvements in efficiency and productivity and expertise. For example, you may send someone who is new to projects on an “Introducing Projects” course that covers basic topics, rather than let them flounder and put your project at risk. An experienced software developer might need advanced skills in a particular programming language in order to meet a project demand. Other team members could be pointed to online resources to develop subject matter expertise and bring back that knowledge to the whole team. Don’t neglect to bookmark our resources section for free online training guides and videos.
8. The right tools
When you serve as an advocate for your team, providing them with the best software and tools for the project, you are helping the whole project improve its chance of success. Though not always possible, your team should reasonably expect to have the tools that align with best practices, including up-to-date project management software. Additionally, ongoing support of project software is an area you need to provide to your team, as well, such as user names and logins for project management software or access to vendor-related tools.
ProjectManager.com offers a suite of enterprise-standard tools that are intuitive to roll-out to your teams, the right software streamlines project management best practices. Try it yourself for free with our 30-day trial.