Project managers (PMs) and account managers (AMs) are usually in a position to be many things to many people. Lucky us! From leading a team to applying oversight or strategy to juggling client demands, we need to be at the top of our game when it comes to managing projects and people.
Though I’ve never had a “project management” mentor, I have worked with a collection of others that taught me a thing or two about managing timelines, expectations and people. As I continue to learn from my own mistakes (or even others), I can pinpoint a few tips that have helped me become more effective and more efficient. Hopefully they can add value for you as well.
1. When in doubt, pick up the phone.
Many times, PMs or AMs can hide behind email when clients have concerns. Although it’s easy to do when you have several other items that need to get accomplished, this can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpreted intent. Instead, pick up the phone (after taking a deep breath), or hop on a video chat so you can see non-verbal cues and underlying emotions. It’s ultimately worth the time invested when your client is happy and you reestablish goals and intentions. This doesn’t just go for clients either. Your team deserves the same respect.
2. Put your team first.
It’s easy to get caught up in client demands, timelines and delivery. After all, that’s why we are hired: To deliver. AMs and PMs are constantly balancing team needs and client demands. If your team isn’t first, you are jeopardizing the very foundation of your work. The delivery of any project will be harder, more agonizing and more exhausting if you don’t think about the team making that delivery possible. If you can, when a last-minute request comes in, check everyone’s queue and talk to them about how to make it work. Considering their workload can go a long way in building the support of a team. Then, when you aren’t able to consult with them and they have to make it work, they are more willing to bend for you.
3. Check timelines often.
It’s easy to get into a bad habit of using your inbox as a to-do list. You tend to mistake the most recent for the most important. If you aren’t using a project management tool, get one. Managing scheduling, tasks, budget, etc. is easier if you have it all in view. If something is falling behind, you may need to talk to your team and adjust for the delay. If you aren’t leading the charge, you can’t hold your team accountable to the timelines set. Task your team their project responsibilities early and check timelines often – every day even. Be sure to over communicate expected timelines and goals
4. Over communicate. I repeat, over communicate.
This is one of those things that most people think goes without saying, although it tends to be a struggle for many teams. When working with any team, or anyone for that matter, it’s always best to over communicate – even if it feels repetitive. Whether it is expectations, goals, timeline adjustments or anything else, without constant communication between team members, you can’t manage the scope of an entire project – not to mention many of them at once. This is key to essential account management and project management. Note: It also sets the tone on what you expect from your teammates as well.
5. Always be honest.
This may seem like an out-of-place tip, but it really comes into the picture if you have to deliver less than desirable news. As PMs and AMs, we get the opportunity to be positioned between absolutely everyone: Clients, bosses, teams, other agencies, vendors or even consultants. We are required to manage multiple relationships and everyone’s feelings and expectations, but also be respected enough so they listen to what we say as a subject matter expert.
Always being honest is a good rule of thumb when managing people of all rank and type. Many times, people are surprised by it, because it takes courage to be honest. After the sting effect wears off, people tend to respect you and appreciate that you had the guts to tell them straight up when others may not have. This rule will never fail you.
Successful project management ultimately boils down to honest relationships, fostered by mutual respect and straight-forward communication – whether it’s with your client, your team or another partner. What are your tried-and-true project/account management tips?