The Human Side of Project Management

Many people look at project management as a methodical, systematic way of managing resources, time, and money.   Rightfully so.  However, the human element of project management is often given lesser importance and the metrics of cost and time take precedence.  This is an important topic not only for enterprise project managers but for freelancers as well.  Here are some tips you can use to improve your working relationship with your team and stakeholders.

Know your stakeholders and their expectations

For most situations, the most important stakeholder is the client.  Be sure to nail down exactly what it is they require the project to produce and make sure your team has the ability to convert on time and on budget — meeting all specifications.

It also helps if you get you know your stakeholders.  Discover how they like to operate and analyze tendencies — you’ll be able to anticipate their reactions and create a better working relationship.

Know your team members and their strengths

Now that you know what’s the client expects of the project, be sure to pick team members with specialties that match up well with the project needs.  Also, be weary of the warnings signs: members who have the wrong attitudes, have too many other projects on their plate, or those who don’t get along well with others.  You’ll want a team that will gel and put the needs of the project first.

Initiate and sustain communication

Don’t wait on the team to come to you, its your job to go to them first.  To be able to manage risks and anticipate disasters (not wait for them to happen), you need to consistently be in communication with team members.  You’ll be able to respond to new kinks in the plan and re-organize more easily, if necessary.

This is also true for your stakeholders.  Make sure they are well informed of the project status and any major blips that have occurred.  The last thing you want is an uninformed, nervous client; it makes the team look unprofessional and can have a negative affect on your relationship with the client.

Be their leader

As leaders, project managers must set goals and motivate team members to achieve or exceed those goals.  However, this requires a great deal of respect from the team.  The project manager can gain this respect by:

  • Leading by example.  Show the level of work ethic and work quality you expect from your team by actually performing at that level.
  • Sell your vision to the team to build their commitment to the project.
  • Encourage positive, ‘can-do’ attitudes.
  • Praise victories in public and correct failures in private.

Be human

People change their minds, make mistakes, and have emotions.  Be prepared to not only manage people as clients and team members but also as human beings with diverse arrays of perceptions, experiences, and behaviours.  A good project manager will be able to correct misunderstandings and mitigate conflicts while keeping the project running smoothly.  Be empathetic, fair, and understanding; you’ll find your team will be more efficient, creative, and happy.

What tips do you have for managing relationships with clients and team members?