6 Tips for First-Time Project Managers

Project management is a complex job; it requires technical expertise, great communication skills, leadership, organization and more. Because of its vast responsibilities, it often takes new project managers months – or even years – to master the job’s core functions. But it doesn’t have to. Here are six tips for project managers who are getting used to their role and looking to grow their skills.

1. Become familiar with PM tooling

A project manager is the owner of the team’s tooling, which means you should have insight into the most commonly used tools on the market. These tools can include Asana, JIRA, Trello, Wrike and more. As the tooling owner, you’re responsible for selecting the best toolset for your team and managing how they use it. Consider having trainings with your team to teach them how to make the most out of your software, and develop processes that define how you should use each tool in your suite. You should also keep a pulse on your team’s affinity for your toolset; if they continually complain about a specific tool, it may be time to seek out a better option.

2. Develop strong relationships

A project manager is the glue that binds a team together, which makes relationships extremely important to your role. You should be intentional about getting to know every member of your team on a personal level. Since you set the tone for a project’s culture, this will inspire others to do the same, creating an environment of respect and genuine care for each other. That care will transfer into your projects and build trust and closeness across the team.

3. Practice empathy

Empathy is a critical component of project success. It can be too easy for team members to place blame on others when a project goes awry. That blame breeds mistrust, frustration and divisiveness. On the other side, when you cultivate an environment that inspires empathy, you build a culture rooted in mutual understanding, respect and trust, creating a stronger team that will support each other during hard times, not break each other down.

4. Opt for over-communication

As the liaison between your project team and key stakeholders, you are a hub of project knowledge – and it’s your responsibility to make sure that knowledge is disseminated appropriately. This means you should choose to over-communicate whenever possible. Post project updates in JIRA tickets, send updates in Slack and keep a running change log that team members can reference. By communicating in multiple avenues, you reduce the risk of someone falling out of the loop.

5. Hold post-mortems

Post-mortems are post-project meetings where you take the time to learn from a project as a team. They create an opportunity to praise people who went above and beyond, review and learn how to prevent challenges, and bring a sense of closure to a project. On top of being a great learning opportunity, post-mortems also strengthen your team’s bond; when you create an environment where people can be vulnerable about their project failures, you also create an opportunity to build trust and fortify relationships.

6. Never stop learning

This list is just the beginning. Digital project management is an ever-evolving field, and you should be evolving with it. Develop regular habits of reading thought-leading articles, attending webinars or conferences, and staying up-to-date with industry trends to grow your project management skills over time.

As you sink into your role as a project manager, consider leveraging these six skill-building tips to get better at what you do. It takes time to achieve excellence in this role, so be patient with yourself, but know that you can expedite the process by putting these six tips into practice.