Ever since I joined the world of project management, I have had the good fortune of learning from more experienced team members. Their mentorship has given me the opportunity to learn and grow as a project manager. I am grateful for the help and support from those colleagues and managers.
Documenting all of the takeaways from the mentors I have had would be impossible, but these are a few of the most significant ones.
Fight for your project.
Many projects do not go smoothly. Change is hard, and countless factors can get in the way. Don’t let them stop you. As the project manager, it is your role to fight for the viability of your project. Your project goals, timelines, and teams must be carefully monitored and defended. Although you likely will not get your way all the time, you will win the trust of clients and project teams by not passively accepting threats to your project.
Communication is key.
Assumptions are the “frenemy” of your project. They are essential (after all, you need to start somewhere), but it is also essential that you discuss, document, and keep your assumptions in check. Communication uncovers assumptions that you and your project team may not know you had. Lack of communication can leave them buried and can lead to nasty surprises down the road.
Stay ahead of the curve.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in a project’s day-to-day aspects. There are so many timelines, resources, people, and expectations flying around that they can become all-consuming. Don’t let them be. Always keep the objectives and end-goal of your project in mind. Keep an eye out for the lessons learned that will strengthen your next project.
Know what you don’t know.
The best project managers I know are continuous learners. They have taught me to develop enough expertise to be effective and conversational in a variety of related fields (such as quality assurance or product management). But they also emphasized that each of us should know our limits and recognize when you need to involve a subject matter expert.
Change is the only constant.
As project managers, we plan and then work with stakeholders to implement our plan. But we must always stay mindful of enterprise environmental factors. The world around us is changing at a dizzying pace. New technologies roll out that may make your projects more or less challenging. New methods of communication may impact how your project team works together (hopefully for the better). If you aren’t changing with the world around you, your skills and your project may quickly become obsolete.
Get to know your team.
Project management can certainly be stressful. But it’s fun! You have the unique opportunity to interact with people and groups inside and outside your department and organizations. Take the time to get to know them and what makes them tick! Beyond what you learn from them, good relationships can help you through challenging times.
What have you learned from your mentors along the way? And in turn, what lessons would you most like to pass along to your current or future mentees?
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