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Learning & Development Blog

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Five Project Management Maxims We All Know (But Often Forget)

Thesis: Keeping a team happy and humming along on a project is often as simple a matter as balancing the urge to over-manage or under-manage.

Profound statement? Of course, not. One we often forget? Definitely. Mentally glancing over the 5 project management maxims below (and others like them) every now and then has helped me more than once on a project. Take a look, then ask yourself: “what 'non-profounds' are on my list?”

1. Check in frequently for updates, but don’t make it an event your team members fear.
Communication is the key to any good relationship, and that rule remains true at the project management level. You need to know that deadlines are being met and budgets not exceeded, and your team needs to be able to air concerns and get help. But if you make these check-ins “all stick and no carrot,” you will increasingly find that your attempts at communication are met with suspicion, or worse – silence. Avoid this problem by keeping your queries gentle, and remember – people not only need praise, but they deserve it for a job well-done. Don’t skimp.

2. Let people run their own tasks as much as possible.
Yes, you may know (or think you know) a better way to do something. Yes, the result might not be exactly what you had in mind. But chances are it’s awfully close, and getting it just right isn’t (generally) worth losing your focus on the big picture, or making a team member feel inadequate.

3. Everyone screws up.
Everyone. The important thing is to fix the mistake in a way that satisfies the needs of the client (or of the project), and then helping your team learn from what went wrong. And don’t gloss over your own mistakes. No one expects you to be perfect, either, and you won’t fool anyone, anyway.

4. You’re the face of the team – represent.
Speak positively of your team to the client (whether outside or inside the company), and accept that with your position comes the responsibility to take on criticism; if something’s gone wrong and your client isn’t happy – it’s your fault first.

5. Listen first.
No one said that just because you’re managing the project you have the most to say. Listen to your team and feel free to let them come up with the decisions. You don’t always have to “put your two cents in” to earn either respect or your pay.

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