Everybody strives to be better than they currently are personally and professionally, and some people strive to be the absolute best they can be. If you are a project manager looking to be the best version of yourself then here are some tips to help you along that path. These tips are based on my experience and I invite anybody reading this to add in their tips as well as I believe the real magic in helping others comes from all of our combined experience.
Here they are in no particular order:
Seek Feedback: Don’t be afraid to talk to the people you work for, and with, about your performance and ask them how they think you could do better. I highly recommend getting them to frame things in a positive light because humans have a particular tendency to be told nine positive things about themselves, and one negative thing and then focus on the one negative thing. So go out there and get feedback from your team members, your clients, your managers, and anybody else who you think can provide honest (and positive) feedback about where your professional development opportunities are.
Don’t Stop Learning: Never ever stop learning new things. If you do you may find that you become obsolete very fast. There aren’t many professions, and project management is certainly not one of them, that have a completely static skill set that has reached some sort of apex. As a project manager you will always have to be learning both to enhance your existing set all skills, and also learn new skills developed as the profession grows. Don’t forget that learning can be in the form of formal training and development, mentoring and coaching, or simply self-directed learning as well. The key is to never stop learning.
Identity Your Strengths: None of us are perfect and we all have our own strengths and areas where we could improve. I highly recommend an accurate appraisal and assessment of your strengths, and really leveraging and leaning into these in your professional career. These parts of your personality are the ones that you find easy to do and should be maximized. At the same time you should acknowledge the areas where you aren’t as strong and figure out what you want to do about that. You may want to develop those or you may simply want to work alongside people with skills that balance out your weaker area.
Be a People Person: Sure Gantt charts, Kanban boards, work breakdown structures, Earned Value Management, quantitative risk analysis, and planning poker are useful to learn but the real magic a project manager performs is their amazing interpersonal skills. The best project managers are those that have diverse range of communication skills, natural sympathy and empathy for others, the desire and ability take on leadership roles, and high levels of resilience and self-awareness. For some lucky people these things come naturally, but for others these are personality attributes that you will need to work on.
Be Professional and Ethical: It seems strange to have to remind people who want to become great project managers that you do need to be professional and ethical at all times in your career, but it is an important reminder to us all. Be your best self and strive at all times to be professional. Additionally, always act ethically – even when no one is looking. Your career will depend on these decisions.
Give Back: Giving back to the profession and also giving your experience to other project managers is a fantastic way for you to learn and develop. You may think of it is purely an exercise in giving to others, but this very act of giving makes you a better project manager. So, make sure you set aside some time for volunteering for your local professional community, and mentoring of other project managers who aren’t as experienced as you.
Don’t Burnout: In order to be your best professionally, you need to be your best personally and this means looking after your own well-being first and foremost. Make sure that you don’t let your professional commitments slowly and sneakily rob of your well-being. There is no career reward great enough to compensate the losses you will experience if you do experience burnout.
As I said at the beginning of this article I would love your feedback and tips about how to be the best project manager you can be, and I do look forward to hearing from you.