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What Every Project Manager Should Know

Updated on June 19, 2015

Achieving A Good Work-Life Balance

Work/ life balance can often seem completely unachievable when you're a project manager. Project management training courses teach us how to be excellent at leadership, methodologies, risk management and estimation - but where's the bit about getting the job done well without completely losing your personal life? If you can manage to balance work and personal life, you will see that you are not 'coping' with life, you are truly making the most of it. In order to do this, you must not only be a project manager at work, but at home as well. Project management training can be applied to all areas of life. So the beauty of this career choice is, out of every job role available, if you're struggling with work life balance, you as a project manager are the most qualified person to correct the issue yourself.

Here Are A Few Tips To Help You Achieve Work Life Balance As A Project Manager:

Take Your Time

Stop thinking it is possible to control everything and everyone and assuming everyone in your personal life and work life need you all at the same time 24/7. If you work over 60 hours a week you are going to burn out, there's no way around it. When you do this you exhaust yourself and inevitably end up being tired at work and at home, so no one gets the best of you. Connect your work diary with your personal diary so meetings and family and friends time doesn't overlap. If you are spending too much time at work, take immediate action and think about you can cut your working hours down and make your working hours more productive. If you're spending too much time socialising and finding your work life is suffering for it, cut that down as well to ensure your family and friend time is about quality over quantity.

Think About Your Own Milestones

You will constantly be working towards project deadlines, targets at work and various other goals relating to your professional life - you're a project manager it's in your nature to be ambitious. However, if you don't have your own personal milestones to work towards, you're doing yourself a disservice. Have you booked yourself a holiday or weekend away? Would you like to learn a new hobby or do you have a fitness goal? They don't have to be big, but they do have to relate to you and your personal life. Write them on paper and hold yourself accountable for their completion just like you would a project. You could even write out tasks and milestones you'll need to do complete in order to reach your personal goal.

Get Your Priorities Right And Start Delegating!

Are you completing each and every task at lightening speed on your own when you could simply be completing the most important first and delegating the others? Are you putting pressure on yourself to do all the tasks yourself? You must remember your project management training and recognise it is not your job to complete all of the tasks. In fact, a huge part of your job is to delegate and then lead and steer the team to success. If you're focusing on completing all the tasks yourself, you're not going to have the energy or clarity of mind to be able to successfully manage your team as you should be. Prioritise tasks, delegate them accordingly and then any you do yourself, put a time limit on them to pass them over to a team member if they haven't been completed by that time.

Use All The Resources Available To You

Use calendars, PM apps, notebooks and connections with colleagues - whatever you can to balance your work and your personal life. There are so many resources available to you - use them. Do not be afraid to lean on people or technology because you think it appears weak - it isn't weak, it is sensible.

Take Some Time Out!

Don't work through your lunch break and don't work until 3am getting up at 7am to start work again. Your brain needs time to relax and take in information it's been given. Give yourself the odd five minutes away from the desk, and make sure you use time off to relax as well. Remember a person who is exhausted will not perform as well as someone who is refreshed.

If you're feeling burnt out or exhausted, it's time to do yourself a favour and take a step back to reevaluate things. You only get one shot at life, don't waste it being unhappy and tired - you're probably only a few small steps away from achieving balance and the difference between living and thriving.

Barriers to Cooperation in your Project Team

Have you ever worked in a project team where someone, or sometimes multiple someones, seemdeterminedto create conflict, no matter what? When you say black, they invariably say white, and when you try to make a decisive move to get something done it appears that they want to block you every time. If you have never had to work with an un-cooperative team member then you are very fortunate. Whilst not all projects I have worked on had such a person, many of them did. Sometimes it was the person I would least expectwho seemed to want to scupper the chances of the project being a success, because on previous projectsI viewed them as one of my greatest allies.

The truth is that people are just people, and it is human nature for people to react differently in different situations. But as a project manager it is important, even vital, to find a way to overcome such problems and to break down the barriers to building a cooperative and mutually supportive team. Consider some of the major barriers to cooperation within the team, and how they might be overcome.

1. Not controlling your reactions

How does it feel when someone disagrees with you? Hurtful? Does it make you feel combative? Your reaction to an uncooperative action by a team member determines not only what happens next but sets the tone for maybe the whole of the project, so think carefully before you act. Entering into a battle of wills is never going to produce a good outcome either on a personal level or for the project as a whole. Similarly simply giving in to unreasonable demands is only going to undermine your authority as a project manager; it may resolve short-term tensions but can lead to longer term problems within the team. Aim to explore the reasons why a person is behaving in an un-cooperative way, and uncover their issues so you can make steps to resolve them.

2. Emotional Overflow

Anger, tears and aggression are not normal reactions for professional people, and if you have someone who is becoming emotional at work, there is usually an underlying reason for this. Consider what might be going on in that person's personal and professional life before rushing in to make a judgement. Often a state of mistrust or fear can elicit a negative and outwardly uncooperative response. Rather than just labelling them as a troublemaker, take the time to discuss their situation and find out if there is an underlying reason for their reactions. Remember that the role of the project manager is varied and your ultimate aim is to build a co-operative, motivated team in order to deliver a successful outcome.

3. The Unwilling Team Member

Maybe the person concerned felt that they should have been project manager on this task or, at least, been given a more senior role. Maybe they are dissatisfied with the level of responsibility or autonomy they are allowed. Look past their grouchy nature and negativity and try to find out what you can do to make things work better for them; it will make your life easier and is more likely to motivate the individual concerned.

4. No Backing Down

Sometimes people get so involved in arguments or disagreements that they feel to back down is an admission of defeat. Rather than letting them see the situation as a win-lose scenario, let them take the lead on coming up with a solution to the issue. Let them help you to find a win-win situation that satisfies their own ego as well as actioning a workable solution for the whole team.

5. Wanting To Be Top Dog

If you have a team member aiming to climb the greasy pole, you may find they are reacting with a dog-eat-dog attitude simply to advance their own career at your expense. After all, why would they want all the best ideas and solutions to come from your project when they want to bask in the glory of being brilliant themselves? In this situation you need to assert your authority as project manager through careful planning and professionalism. Reinforce that this is a team effort, and let them know that cooperation will lead to mutual reward at the end of the project.

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