There are as many different ways of leading a project as there are different types of people around. This means that you should put some thought into how you are going to approach this aspect of the project manager role.
I have listed below 5 different ways of doing so. I don’t claim that this is an exhaustive list or even that the points on it are mutually exclusive. It is just designed to be a starting point which helps you work out how you would prefer to go about things in your job.
Some project managers like to control every aspect of the work they oversee. Personally it is not an approach I choose but I can see why it could be an option in some cases. Perhaps it is a really important project for your career or maybe you are in charge of an inexperienced project team and want to guide them. In summary, I reckon that it is a method which might be useful at times but which isn’t really advisable in every piece of work you get. There are usually plenty of chances to let go a little and if you think that you are being too controlling then you should look out for these possibilities.
Let the Team Take the Strain
This is another approach which can be useful at times but damaging at others. It is a great idea to delegate work to your team members when you can. However, you need to avoid giving them jobs which they can’t do or seeming to pass the buck onto them. I believe that the first step to getting this right is that of knowing what your team members are like and what they are looking for in their careers. Once you do this you will be able to make an informed decision on what work to do yourself and what you can safely delegate out. If you pass too much onto other people then you also run the risk of slipping out of touch with what is happening in the project.
It can be difficult to carry on smiling when a project gets into the serious phases and the pressure starts to build. This is usually a stressful time and you might be so caught up in the work that you don’t even notice that you aren’t smiling as much as you usually do. This means that the first step is in realising that your project leadership could be even better if you were able to relax a little and smile now and then. A good idea is to set aside a little time each week to walk around your team and have a chat with them. They will appreciate this gesture and it might help you relax and enjoy a bit of a chat which helps you smile. Friday afternoons are good for doing this.
As a counter balance to the last point it is worth pointing out that some project managers could do with leading the project in a more serious manner. Even if you have all of the work under control you might still give out the wrong impression if you don’t seem to be taking it too seriously. I guess the key is in knowing when to get serious and when you can show your less formal side. It is a great attribute for a project manager to be able to relax so you certainly shouldn’t look to ditch this side of your personality completely. As with most things in life, it is all about getting the balance right.
Even when you are working hard and making deadlines you can still discover that leading a project is a fantastic way of making new friends. You are likely to come across a lot of different types of people in a range of situations. I worked in a number of different locations across the UK and I loved meeting up again with colleagues in other cities. I never actually spent all that much time with most of them but I enjoyed the chance to make friends and then know that I would be back working with them again in a short time. We always need to remember that it is a job rather than a social network but there is no reason that you can’t have a good time and enjoy some fun with your colleagues while you are successfully leading your projects.