As project managers, behavior is always on show, the more experience obtained then the more disdain which can be displayed towards other project managers who may not be as experienced. This can relate to years in the industry or types of projects completed. In this instance ego can either be a positive or negative impact on project delivery. It is important to be able to call out behavior that isn’t acceptable as it can corrode a project team.
If you have any longevity in delivering projects of any type, then it is more than likely you would have encountered different types of characters along the journey, each with their own set of challenges. From problematic stakeholders, absent or inexperienced sponsors, misalignment between those at the top and those at the coal face, or ineffective communicators within the team, there are many different personalities that intersect on a daily basis.
This all relates to the type of characters involved within the project, specifically their ego and how it plays out within dynamic and fast-paced environments. There is little argument to suggest that thick skin is required to be in the project management game, and egotistical behaviour in particular can threaten the success of a project.
When in a work environment with many characters to negotiate and Human Resources not too far away, It can be very difficult to speak the truth or call out behavior detrimental to the projects outcomes. Especially when the environment doesn’t support it or it’s coming from sponsors and stakeholders who haven’t accepted warnings about problems or risks.
There is a leadership trait that can make a big impact on how landscapes dominated by ego’s can be navigated, called “being brave-smart”. Resources are facing demand from corporate politics and pressures that eventuate due to rapid change. So it is hardly surprising, then, that when high performers emerge and deliver what look to be successful projects, shaping how projects get delivered, particularly when they demonstrate high levels of confidence and seeming ability to get the job done. High achievers or performers often come with egos that, for better or worse, leave their mark on teams charged with delivering big change within the work culture.
Healthy egos belong to people who know they are good at what they do and utilise their knowledge and experience in productive ways. In healthy and supportive cultures, this sort of confidence is a huge enabler to delivering success. But it’s also personal. Life experience allows individuals to offer the best of them when they are comfortable with whom they are. When people feel good about what they’ve done, how they are doing, and themselves in general, it’s easier to tackle even the most challenging problems.
Brave-smart project managers implicitly understand that for a successful team, confidence is a must, but there’s a big difference between confidence and egotistical behavior. In toxic or deeply challenging environments, what often emerges is, a-perform-at-al- costs culture that can be deeply detrimental to success, as it allows egotistical behavior to thrive. It has been witnessed often enough to comfortably say when egotistical behavior becomes a factor in how projects operate; it’s a huge contributor to increasing the risk of failure. When all of the indicators are pointing toward success, this is easy to overlook. But when things start going wrong or off-course, ego can become a very big problem.
Fostering support and transparent culture is a quality in good leaders, who have the competence and ability to see beyond the egos in the room, the foresight to make the right decisions, and the courage to tackle egotistical behaviour head-on. A good leader will make decisions on what is best for the project or the company and not focus the egos in the room. They will evaluate situations on facts, seek clarification, get several views on a given situation, and they will ask for guidance where it’s necessary.
They ensure roles and responsibilities within their team is understood, that the right people are in the right roles, and they will adhere to the principles of strong governance. Most importantly, an effective leader is only as effective as the sponsor they are delivering for. If the sponsor isn’t listening, project leaders need to be adept enough to find a way to communicate news , whether good or bad.
Brave-smart leaders implicitly understand how important it is to spend time with the team to gauge how each of them is feeling and use positive reinforcement and other fit-for-purpose techniques to help create a positive environment to get the best from them.
Setting the tone is a valid – and invaluable – starting point for eliciting the kind of behaviors that leave ego at the door. Examples may include:
- Agreeing what is acceptable behavior upfront
- Listening and allowing others to speak
- Valuing the input, opinion, and perspective from various viewpoints within the team
- Remain focused on outcomes that the project is aiming to achieve as a team so that contributions remain in context, are not easily parked, and do not side-track or personalize matters
- Ensuring that those with the egotistical behaviors need to back up what they say with facts
- Setting the platform that enables Brave-Smart conversations to be had from the outset
Brave-smart behavior should always be the goal. When a team is clear on some of the above behaviors, it makes it easier – though not easy – to call out behavior like that of the egotist which is never conducive to fostering a long term productive delivery environment.
Regardless if you are a project manager who contracts or looking for the next permanent role, there are always fundamental skill requirements to focus on or highlight when landing the next role along your project management journey. It is essential to invest quality time into getting the CV or resume right.
Being able to sell yourself and your skills will separate you from the many other candidates also applying for that next role. Even the most experienced project managers can find themselves being overlooked for roles they are ideal for, by failing to adequately highlight the skills they have. The quality of the CV can make or hinder job-seeking prospects, so no assumptions should be made that experience and qualifications alone are enough. There are some ways available to draw attention to skills and make sure landing the next project management role is easier.
Some of the considerations here may seem like common sense, but you will be surprised how often they are overlooked, and if you are able to hone in on these items it should enable you to stand out from the pack.
The audience should be considered when the CV or resume is composed, remember it can be modified for each role being applied. When asked to consider the audience for a project management CV, most people will assume the answer is simple: the hiring manager, who is looking for a new project manager. However, in reality, things are not always this simple and there are actually often multiple audiences to consider before the hiring manager is reached.
The CV should be written with three key audiences in mind. The first is a machine, the second is the person in charge of shortlisting, and the third is the hiring manager who will eventually make the decision.
The problem with focusing solely on the hiring manager is that your CV may never reach them. For this reason, you need to give consideration to what a machine will be looking for in order to pre-qualify CVs, and what a shortlisting professional might look for, given they may not actually have any project management knowledge.
Machines are likely to want to see common project management training phrases, keywords and qualifications, so make sure these are listed clearly. For instance, highlighting any completed online PM courses, and certifications such as PMP or PRINCE2, this should also be clearly mentioned.
The person in charge of shortlisting is more likely to be looking into personal details and general competency. Make sure any gaps in employment history are explained and avoid spelling and grammatical errors. Then focus on impressing the hiring manager with specific skills and past project successes.
The CV should always be tailored for the role, so it shows the specific skills and attributes that the role being applied for requires. Ensure to thoroughly read through the job advertisement, the person specification and any other relevant material and make a list of the skills they request.
Once known what they are looking for, create a CV that showcases the relevant skills and helps you to stand out as the ideal candidate. For instance, if the recruiter is looking for Agile project management skills, then list any Agile project management training completed, and giving examples of past Agile projects.
Again the following may seem logical, but is a feature frequently missed, this could be because there is an assumption from your experience that it is a given that your skill complies with the role. So if the role is for a project manager, you should describe yourself as a project manager. If they speak about a project charter instead of a project statement, you should too. Remember to always be truthful when describing skillset and where worked as any lies are likely to be found out.
When describing skills and roles, remember to be as specific as Possible. Regardless of whether emphasising soft skills or job-specific skills, avoid being too general. There are only so many times a recruiter can read phrases like “excellent communication skills” and “great attention to detail” without rolling their eyes, so stand out by being as factual as possible without being repetitive.
Also focus on any soft skills possessed, highlight communication skills, and make sure the CV reads well. If you are committed to continuing your own personal development, make sure your CV shows evidence of this through any online PM courses completed. In terms of more specific project management skills possessed, try to think of the ones that are going to be most relevant – planning skills, risk management skills, resource management skills, etc. – and demonstrate that you have them. This can be achieved by talking about specific previous projects you have managed, and any awards received.
Job history should include some basic contextual information about what the role was, what it entailed, and what successes enjoyed. Of course, the balancing act with this is to avoid going into too much detail. Try to be clear and concise, as ideally a CV should fit onto two pages.
Regardless of how qualified for project management roles you may be you can still miss out. Don’t fail to take the appropriate steps to manage your CV, by highlighting the skills possessed by writing with all relevant audiences in mind, by tailoring your CV to the role you are applying for, and by being as specific and factual as you can. Remember, you are not the only one applying for roles, so take advantage of skills and highlight certifications to land the next role, as you are competing against your peers.
In the course of a project manager’s career, there will be many different types of clients with varied personalities to satisfy. One of the most critical skills which can be learnt is how to relate to, work with, and leverage the strengths of team members. For professional services leaders, being able to adjust communication styles to meet other personalities doesn’t just end with the team. In order to manage successful projects for clients, the project manager has to be malleable, adjust to the people and the environment, while maintaining workflow and project management best practices.
The following are some of the 4 most common types of client personalities and strategic actions which can be taken to deliver the project without sacrificing productivity.
The hovering client
Known as the helicopter personality type, unfortunately projects don’t always run smoothly and if a client has experienced failure before then expect a lot of distractions. As the client who has experienced delays previously will be anxious and expect to be asked a lot of questions. This could be the case because the client had poor status visibility of a previous project. Whether jaded from previous projects or simply over-interested, this type of client may flood inboxes with “checking in” emails. If this is the case then the client is hovering and the biggest challenge is satisfying this client by being responsive with request updates, without letting it take too much time. Statistics indicate, when working with the helicopter type client, valuable time is spent on updates that affect project delivery.
It’s difficult to be proactive when dealing with a hovering client, due to having constantly responded on update requests. But using a single source of truth and building visibility into workflow can be the secret behind satisfaction. Depending on requirements, using a project management platform or Excel spreadsheets to visualize tasks and centralize project details could do the trick.
Dashboards are a good way for clients and internal stakeholders to view real-time project progress. Using a single source of truth by establishing a central repository where clients can find information easily. A tool should be used that has dashboard capabilities that show project task statuses. When kicking off projects, walk clients through the workflow statuses which will be used, how notification will occur and any task status changes.
Being consistent and sticking to this approach should instil the project teams understanding of the client’s requirement and displays empathy and professionalism. Setting process from the beginning and providing visibility settles anxious or curious clients. Understanding processes and statuses act as the basis of workflow by providing clients with visibility without the extra work.
The distant client
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the distant client, the set and forget type. This type of client only wants high-level information with the project manager running the program with little client interaction. The challenge here is keeping them informed without overwhelming the client. The challenge with this type of client:
- There’s no clear measure of success.
- Little to no follow-up on questions, making it hard to stay on top of task due dates and align with their vision.
- The project team will waste time trying to track down information.
- Questions from client executives will cue fire drills that take the team out of the flow to get the client answers.
- Without a real sense of ownership on the clients end, the review and approvals process can take some time.
When projects are delayed, frustration and suspicion can quickly arise because the client doesn’t fully understand the scope.
When working for a customer who remains distant, provide them with a project map. Commence the project with a questionnaire that gathers all the needed project information. Teams create a form that triggers specific questions based on responses. Questionnaire forms help the distant client think through their needs so expectations can be set from the beginning.
Taking this approach can be done with a list pre-set questions for different projects in a Google form, spreadsheet, or document, hence no special project management tool is required. Create a project template with consistent steps, workflow statuses, and ways of notifying stakeholders when projects progress.
Once the questionnaire answers are received and the requirements understood, kick off the project with a template that clearly states the delivery work and when client feedback is required. Using a Gantt chart with relevant information provides a good project view.
The Lock Down client
As data breaches become more prevalent, clients are becoming more careful about how and where they share their information. Data security concerns keep clients from being flexible and allowing them to build better relationships with customers. The lock down client will be hesitant about providing the project manager all the details needed to succeed. They also might want to work within their own collaboration systems, which take the project team out of their normal workflow.
This can be worked around by providing integrations, capabilities and document protocols. There are three ways a project team can add security measures into their workflow to satisfy this type of client.
- Offer flexible and secure ways for clients or external stakeholders to provide feedback and approvals.
- Establish project folder permissions that can limit visibility into task information both internally and externally.
- Use the cloud to remain flexible and meet clients’ security requirements while preserving visibility and collaboration.
In order to be flexible for the security conscious client, use a project management tool that can securely integrate into other tools like Slack, a DAM, CRM, and more. Offering a secure work management platform provides the project team and the client with a safe space to create winning strategies. Regardless of the work management tool chosen, make sure it assists with managing client projects and provides industry-leading protection for full collaboration.
Too many leaders
Feedback consolidation when there are too many decision makers, and there is no channel to decipher the information. The project team need to work out which of the pieces of information is the one which should be actioned. As there could be a struggle with consolidating feedback and communication across email threads, spreadsheets, etc., and the most common factor for project delays are last-minute changes to requirements followed by delays due to conflicting priorities. Working with a group of decision makers can be challenging, with different personalities, drives, and goals involved, it’s hard for project leaders to satisfy everyone.
Providing the client with a structure and a framework should alleviate the challenges around task ownership, requirement changes, and difficulties in the approvals process. As part of the project kick off determine roles and responsibilities. Using responsibility frameworks like RACI, RAPID, or DACI provides structure to the group.
Giving stakeholders ownership and defining roles keeps the whole team focused as the project progresses. The project team should then be able to leverage these frameworks in order to professionally keep clients on track and in check when an “informed” member tries to overstep their boundaries.
Once clear roles are established, the next challenge is for the client to proof and approve. This can be achieved by using an asset like email where they upload it into the software tool and assign stakeholders to provide feedback. Reviewers digitally mark up the asset so all stakeholders can see comments in real time. This breaks down communication silos and streamlines the actions needed to get that final approval. This can be achieved with existing tools by clearly defining who should provide feedback how it should be received and when it’s due.
Having a good sense of humour is often a good remedy when dealing with stressful situations, there’s no reason work life should affect project delivery. Understanding how to satisfy different client personalities and working styles will set project managers apart, and keep clients coming back again and again.
In order to scale these tactics, weave project management best practices into workflow consistently. Using collaborative work management platform assists in satisfying clients while building highly productive workflows.
Are you a project manager who understands your customer, sponsor or stakeholder? Who takes an empathetic approach to their requirements? Understand the effect of the planned change on the organisation and its people. Project Management deals with change that is the outcome of working on the project in the first place. Is it the role of the Project Manager to feel for the people the change is affecting? Understanding the human element of a project is an essential aspect of a quality project manager.
The power of empathy enables a person to be of greater service to sponsors, clients, peers, superiors and subordinates. As project management is about serving the needs of stakeholders and satisfying their expectations, empathy is a critical success factor. This is a lesson learnt over many years as a project manager, because
People can often forget what has been said and done to them, depending on the enormity of the issue, but they will never forget how they have been made to feel.
A projects deal with a change in working environments, be it infrastructure or Application based and change has occurred for a project to be completed. At some stage of the projects lifecycles, people, sponsors, stakeholders have been affected. To ensure leaders, including project managers, are empathetic to those affected, understanding their feelings and reactions is important. During a change leaders might want to spent more time and effort in communicating to dispel unnecessary uncertainty, be seen as trusted change leaders and to exhibit a degree of caring and kindness.
There are three known types of empathy, cognitive, emotional and compassionate. Each will be treated separately.
Cognitive empathy is the ability to intellectually understand what others may think or feel. It is taking the perspective of another. This is very useful in negotiating, conflict resolution and in motivating people. But, this kind of empathy can be cold and calculating. When there is no emotional connection, there is a tendency to be detached, uncaring and manipulative.
Emotional empathy is feeling what others are feeling, as if their emotions were contagious. “This emotional contagion depends in large part on cells in the brain called mirror neurons, which fire when we sense another’s emotional state, creating an echo of that state inside our own minds. Emotional empathy attunes us to another person’s inner emotional world, a plus for a wide range of professions …”
Emotional empathy has a negative side. Person’s emotions can be triggered by another’s, which has the potential to become overwhelming and lead to reactions and decisions that may not have the best interest of the people or project at hand. The project manager must be able to manage their emotions, and while feeling them fully, not become reactive. For example, termination, or removal of a resource from a project team, where the pain of the removal can be felt by others but still go through with the action to let them go. Compassionate empathy informs the choice of an approach that would minimize the other’s pain.
The third kind of empathy is compassionate empathy, which deals with blending emotions with rational thinking and the urge to help. As another’s feelings are felt as if they were their own and applies emotional intelligence so as not to be driven by the feelings. At the same time as assistance is provided where possible and necessary. Compassion is “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it” according to Merriam Webster. Other perspectives point to the need to apply self-compassion as well as compassion for others.
Compassionate Empathy is the highest form of empathy. It moves empathy from receptivity to proactive action motivated by a felt sense of kindness, caring and the urge to serve.
Empathetic factors are important to the project manager who understands, compassion, kindness, and caring, it all seems fluffy and not real. Are project managers supposed to be kind and empathetic? It is a trait a project manager should have to be successful. Studies and common sense tell us that workers are more productive and have lower turnover rates when they are less stressed with a sense that the people they work for and with care about them as people.
Today, it is widely accepted that acknowledging and managing feelings is quite practical. If people are part of the equation, there will be feelings and their feelings will affect performance. Positive feelings such as happiness, kindness, compassion, confidence, trust, etc. lead to people performing their tasks more effectively. If the feelings are negative, such as anger, depression, anxiety, jealousy, distrust, etc. performance will suffer.
Empathy begins with motivation and the cultivation of mindful awareness as a foundation for emotional and social intelligence. At the same time, we use cognitive and communication skills to show people that they are seen and being cared about. Ask yourself questions such as how do I feel at work? How do my stakeholders feel? Do positive feelings and empathy make a difference? The studies and theories are helpful in answering these questions, but you need to answer them for yourself, based on your own experience and the experience of those around you. Think about it, talk about it. See if empathy matters. And if it does, do something to make yourself and your organisation more compassionately empathetic.
Project reporting is one of the most important factors in a project manager’s daily function, understanding the information which needs to be provided, and being succinct in the process is a very definite skill. Governance dictates that status report updates need to be provided to management, stakeholders, sponsors and anyone in between at least on a fortnightly or monthly basis.
Understanding the content which needs to be injected becomesa critical part of effective project communications and management strategy. Templates, PowerPoint can be used and some produce reports directly from their project reporting tools or a combination of all three can be used. Whatever format used, adhering to a regular and formalized process helps save time and costly data mistakes. Also, by being consistent with reporting process assists in maintaining stakeholder expectations, so everyone is aware of what information they can expect on a regular basis.
There will be many different types of progress reports throughout the life cycle of the project. But the project status report can do a lot of things other reports can’t. It’s a vital communication tool, and it can provide a documented history of the project, which makes planning for the next project easier.
Some other objectives of status reports include:
- Improve communications across organization
- Simplify communication process
- Keep stakeholders informed
- Deliver key messages to intended target audience
- Improve organizational support for the project or team
Whether presenting in a board room or sending a weekly email update, it’s a good idea to know the best practices when reporting on a project’s progress before jumping into a presentation of the report.
- Communicate: It should be used to deliver the right data to the right party at the right time.
- Consistency: Use the same format, distribution cycle and method. Don’t mix things up. That only disrupts the effectiveness of the communication aspect of the report.
- Establish Metrics: When planning for the project, figure out how progress is going to be measured. Maintain this method when reporting on the project throughout its life cycle.
- Simplify: The report should be effective, so don’t obscure it with unnecessary details. Stay to the point and just report on what needs reporting on.
- Verify: The audience doesn’t want opinions or unsubstantiated facts. Do the due diligence, and make sure that the data and information is verified.
- Standards: Like consistency, keeping standards of process and a template for reporting makes sure the report is clear.
- Use Tools: There are project management tools that incorporate these best practices, streamlining the process.
The project management status report should include the following general information;
- Project name
- Project Author
- Project Sponsor
- Project manager Name
- Number of resources
Although obvious, this information is essential. Assumptions should not be made that the stakeholder is familiar with the information. It’s also especially useful for when performing historic research for future projects.
Other factors which should be included in a project Status report are as follows;
The milestones are major phases of a project. They’re a good way to break up the larger project into more digestible parts. They’re not as small as tasks, but made up of those tasks which together make up a phase of the project. This is where a note indicates how the milestone is tracking against the planned point of the projects life cycle.
Include a short summary of the forecasted completion date and costs of the project. Be sure to include the tasks that are facing issues, how those problems might impact the deadline and costs, what the plan is to resolve these issues and what the results will be once they have been fixed.
Issues and Risks
List the issues that have arisen over the course of the project to date. Note what they are, how they will be resolved and what impact they’ll have on the overall project. Do the same with the risks and how they will be mitigated.
It’s important to back the report up with hard numbers to prove the statements being made. This metric should have been established during the project’s planning phase. It’s impossible to know if the project is succeeding without measuring its effectiveness.
How PM Tools Can Help
Reporting tools help monitor and track projects online, so all the project data is up-to-the-minute, not days or weeks old. Most PM tools allow generation of some kind of project reports; look for a tool that automates as much reporting as possible, so time is saved. Project Manager Companion for example provides online tools which can generate a variety of reports in one click. From project and portfolio status reports, to task progress report, timesheet reports, workload and allocation reports, expense tracking reports and more.
The reporting can be customized to ensure the right data is for the right audience by filtering the project and data columns needed. The great thing about having the data via software is that it allows drilling down to get finer detail if asked. Having a reporting tool also means no more crunching numbers. The software calculates planned versus actual progress across team members, tasks and projects, via a click. This enables a view on the number of days behind or, preferably, ahead of schedule. If managing a portfolio, it can measure its progress, too.
Look for an online PM software tool that offers real-time dashboards, as that offers the project manager and stakeholders the most accurate data possible. It’s a good idea to bring dashboards via laptop or tablet to status report meeting. That way, if a stakeholder wants to drill deeper on the data, it can be done in real-time so they have the most current picture of the project’s progress as possible.
Reporting is a fundamental part of project management. Using a PM tool that can save time, repetition makes reporting simpler and more accurate. Project Management Companion provides a selection of cloud-based software that updates statuses instantly online, providing the right data at the right time, so monitoring and reporting is more accurate. Try a free trial 30 days.
The use of calendars for project managers is mandatory, without a timeline or frame then the project will be at risk on not delivering on the sponsors, and stakeholder’s expectations. There are ways to make the whole planning for the next month, quarter and year easier. Composing a project management calendar from scratch can be time consuming, and deadlines can shift before completion. Also, once the calendar is put together, how is it aligned with other teams calendars?
Thankfully there is a way to avoid this frustration and easily share project calendars between teams. The following provides some ways to build a digital project management calendar which supports the planning efforts. It is then up to the project manager and team, via collaboration to decide which is the right for fit for the team.
1. Excel for Project Planning
Using Excel for calendar formatting is relatively easy, depending on overall Excel knowledge because of its native table view. As Excel has a prebuilt project calendar template, so time is saved when creating one from scratch and can easily jump into planning. The benefit here is, if an Excel spreadsheet is indeed used to plan a project calendar, then it is likely the team members already know how to open and edit this document.
The drawback when using Excel spreadsheets as the project management calendar, means everyone must view and edit separate files. If multiple people edit the calendar, they need to separately upload their latest version and eventually consolidate all these versions into one. Upkeep can be time-consuming and costly.
Although adding a finalized calendar or creating a work schedule in Excel is easy, collaborating around a shared project manager calendar can be a challenge. Task management within Excel can also be an issue, as the information in the spreadsheet can become outdated and security breaches can occur. As there is no way to know who has access to it and what changes have been made.
2. Google Calendar for Project Planning
Using an online calendar such as the one provided in Google can be a good solution for teams that want to collaborate on project planning in real time. There are many videos and articles online which can provide a guide on how to use Google Calendar for project management.
Google Calendar is very flexible; it allows the creation of multiple calendars which can be viewed simultaneously or one at a time. Google can organize project calendars in one of two ways:
- By Assignee: Create a separate calendar for each team member and put their task deadline on this personal calendar. Team managers can look at each member’s or multiple team members’ workloads to see which deadlines are approaching.
- By Project: Create a separate calendar for each major team project, and enter task due dates and project milestones. Compare project timelines to see if any work should be moved around to accommodate high-priority tasks or heavy workloads.
Although Google Calendar can be an efficient method for collaboratively planning projects, it’s mostly used to schedule meetings.
Collaboratively planning projects and connect launch dates to underlying work can be selected from a list of software tools found in Project Management Companion. The list of available software calendars provides another way to make a calendar for the team. Online Calendars provide a high-level view of scheduled tasks by day, week, month, and/or year. Scheduled tasks contain all related information, files, and conversations, so it’s easy to jump from the calendar right into work. Drag and drop the task on the calendar to change due dates, and all dependent tasks will follow suit.
Having a sharable task management calendar enables project plans to be viewed not only for the team, but for other teams as well. Whether it’s planning blog posts to correspond with a product launch or scheduling email campaigns around an upcoming customer event, Online Calendars makes it easy to align efforts and prevent deadlines from falling through the cracks.
Gantt charts provide a timeline view of all ongoing projects and deadlines. They show task duration’s, connect task dependencies, note task assignees, and compare progress to the projects critical path. It can also provide a view of several projects on the same Gantt chart to see which ones overlap.
Choosing the right project planning calendar
Whether Excel spreadsheets or Gantt charts is selected, there are many different ways to build a project calendar. Select a calendar which works well for you and the team. Collaborate with the team to decide which is the most efficient and effective method for overall needs.