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10 ways to help your team get better at project management

Project management is a skill that can be mastered by anyone who's willing to put in the time and effort necessary to become good at it. Here are 10 tips to help improve your team’s project management skills.

A team in a conference room working together.A team in a conference room working together.

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Project management can be hard — especially when you’re trying to get a team to work in alignment to get a big job done.

Sometimes it feels like you've got deadlines, responsibilities and the occasional side project to deal with… and you don’t have time for anything to go wrong.

Unfortunately, many people don't have a lot of experience with project management, which can lead them to struggle when they try to manage projects on their own. However, if everyone on your team has at least some training on project management principles (such as mapping objectives), and you’re all using the same language and techniques, you’ll have a strong foundation for working together and getting any job done.

Here are 10 tips to help improve your team’s project management skills:

1. Make your team goals transparent.

It’s important for your team to be clear on the project vision and each person’s role in achieving that vision. After all, if a team member is unclear about what they need to do every day, it’s virtually impossible for them to effectively contribute effort, skills or expertise.

In addition to making your team goals transparent, make sure everyone knows what needs to be done, including by who and by when. Create a timeline that shows when certain tasks need to be completed in order for the project, as a whole, to reach completion on time.

Review your team goals and the individual team member goals together to make sure everyone understands how they fit into the puzzle.

2. Encourage your team to set realistic deadlines for themselves.

Especially when working as a team, realistic deadlines are important because they have implications for every other person and the project as a whole. When there are dependencies, it’s essential that each person knows when they can expect prior steps to be completed so they can plan their work and their schedules accordingly.

Of course the desire for realistic deadlines doesn’t mean you should encourage everyone to slow down. Bold deadlines encourage action. They just need to be bold and realistic.

As a leader, you may want to meet with each team member individually to talk about any concerns they might have about their workload or other areas where they could hinder or improve productivity. And if deadlines look like they may get missed, people should be encouraged to speak up in advance and reset expectations across the team.

3. Provide an opportunity for people to brainstorm freely.

Brainstorming is one of the most effective ways to get a group of people working together. And, often, the more ideas you get from your team members, the better.

But, you want to make sure you get those ideas at the beginning of a project so you can review them and prioritize them as you build your project management plan and timeline.

When you plan your brainstorming session, give people time on their own to think about their ideas before the meeting. Providing everyone with an opportunity to get their thoughts organized beforehand will help facilitate productive conversations during your brainstorm session, and no one will feel pressured to have on-the-spot brilliance.

During or immediately after the brainstorming session, make sure you’re clear about what’s making the cutting and getting mapped into your project plans versus what is being added to the parking lot and saved for another time. This will alleviate confusion down the road.

4. Make sure everyone is involved in making decisions about the project.

One of the benefits of the brainstorming session is that it gets everyone involved early on in the project, but the brainstorm session shouldn’t be the only time everyone is involved.

Throughout a project, everyone must feel empowered to make decisions about their own work and to speak up if they see something that is not going according to plan. Likewise, if the environment changes – for example, if the competition comes out with something similar to what you’re creating – any person on the team should be made to feel comfortable bringing this to the attention of the team.

5. Give your team members the autonomy to make their own choices about how they work.

To get the most out of your team members, you should give them the autonomy to make their own choices about how, when and where they work. Autonomy boosts their confidence, enables them to be more creative in their roles and sets the stage for them to do their best work. Plus, giving each member of your team autonomy will encourage them to take responsibility for themselves and guide themselves through challenges.

6. Use a calendar to keep everyone accountable.

It’s important for everyone to know how the project is progressing across the team and at the individual level. A calendar that clearly displays start dates, due dates, team meetings, holidays and individual vacation days provides the transparency people need to manage their own work and their expectations of the team.

If dates get updated on the calendar, make sure it’s done in a way that everyone notices. Passively changing dates can become confusing, but project timeline updates with clear alerts to those who need to know can be very helpful.

7. Celebrate progress instead of only focusing on the final result.

When your team is working on a project and all eyes are on the final result, it can be easy to forget to celebrate the little wins along the way. But celebrating progress can motivate team members — and it can help you spot problems earlier.

For example, if one person seems frustrated or discouraged by another team member’s accomplishment, that frustration may be a sign of roadblocks, training requirements or support needs that were not previously noticed. Likewise, if after a celebration you notice hesitation, that hesitation may indicate confusion or anxiety about what happens next.

Mid-point project celebrations can also be used for reflection. At each step you can discuss wins and room for improvement, allowing you and your team to learn along the way and continually improve.

8. Encourage your team to give each other feedback.

Feedback is also important to be delivered along the way, and not just at the end. And it should come from everyone – not just the team lead.

Encourage your team, when giving feedback, to make sure the feedback is specific and actionable. Individuals should be discouraged from telling someone they did something “wrong” and instead encouraged to provide constructive feedback with ideas for how something can be handled differently next time.

Positive feedback should be delivered liberally, as it keeps people feeling good about the work they’re doing and motivated to keep delivering a strong product.

9. Pay attention to what's happening in your team members' lives and offer extra support when needed.

Today’s best leaders are empathetic and know how to connect with people as humans, and not just as employees. Leaders must be good listeners who ask open-ended questions and are able to understand when people on their team need extra time, extra training or extra support to do their jobs.

10. Help your team grow and connect with live learning on project management skills.

A team that trains together wins together. The Electives platform streamlines the planning, curation, logistics and measurement to make it possible for you to bring impactful learning to your team. Learn more about the Electives platform here.

Project management gets easier with practice.

When you're just starting out, it can feel like an impossible task to juggle all of the moving parts (and members) of your projects. And, if you've been managing a team for a while, chances are you've experienced some stress or frustration in your role as project manager or leader. But project management is a skill that can be mastered by anyone who's willing to put in the time and effort necessary to become good at it. Just remember that improving is a process, and it takes time for people to change their habits and become more effective at what they do. If you're patient and willing to help your team, you’ll find that you’re collectively getting better and better and getting stuff done together.

Invest in personal growth. Motivate your employees.

Invest in the growth of your people to get a competitive edge. Electives personal development programs build skills and knowledge while creating a culture of continuous learning.

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