Project management covers a vast field of knowledge. One only needs to take a look at the index of the PMBOK to get a glimpse of this.
As a new project manager, it is not unusual to feel that the company asked you to run a marathon but you ended up participating in Pamplona’s bull run.
Yet project management in its core involves a great deal of common sense, so everyone already has the first tool to start with. But similar to other fields, great project management does not happen overnight, so a bit of patience and hard work are necessary to grow into a fully equipped professional.
In my early years, I also had to deal with difficult situations, which is why I created a shortlist of principles that will help you during your first steps towards a great project manager.
Tip #1: Educate yourself
Getting trained in project management is the best way to start your career.
Learning by doing is a great thing, but you need a toolkit to really be efficient as a project manager. There are a lot of standards out there when it comes to getting trained in project management. For beginners, I recommend CAPM® to start with.
One of the most effective ways to learn is to share experiences. You can invite almost everyone to a coffee, people are happy to help, perhaps somebody you already work with will accept to mentor you during your first steps.
Tip #2: Start small and iterate
You don’t need to master everything at the beginning.
Defining and planning a project is an iterative process, i. e. you refine and improve what you do along the way and slowly build upon previous knowledge.
You can start just by defining the goal of the project and some high-level tasks that you and your team have identified. Using milestones is highly recommended, as they act as checkpoints that help you to know whether your project is doing well or not. With every week you will learn more about the project and will get familiar with some new tools. Then you can iterate your initial documents, i. e. create new ones based upon previous versions, and apply new methods that you have learned. In the end, it is not so much about being perfect, but rather about regularity and structure.
The key is to know where the project is and to make its current status transparent to others, so everybody can be on the same page.
Tip #3: Trust your team
People like working.
You don’t need to do everything yourself or micromanage your team to get the most out of them. Individuals get a rewarding feeling from their own achievements. Even in the face of failure, a learning effect is possible if you frame it in a positive manner. Your team is there to help you push towards the project goals. However, it is important to understand that everybody has their strengths and that you, as a project manager, should put their abilities and skills at the service of the project.
Tip #4: Take a deep breath
You will have difficult days.
Just remember to take a deep breath. You need all of your mental resources for the hard times, so don’t waste your energy with apocalyptic thoughts. Your breath is the most powerful tool you are equipped with, slow it down and recharge batteries for the next challenge.