9 things great project leaders do every day

Every project leader is different, from their thought processes to their daily interactions, but there are a few things that great ones do every day that just might set them apart from the rest.

great project leaders skillset
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Great project leaders make waves

Making waves shouldn't be confused with making trouble or making problems, as it is often seen. Great change can only come about when project leaders remain in a constant and conscious state of continuous improvement. They make waves by performing the following tasks and services.

  • Consistently identifying and discussing process improvements
  • Continually looking to reinforce best practices
  • Remaining transparent about problems as they arise with sponsors and stakeholders
  • Directly addressing conflict as they arise
  • Redirecting focus back to the client/stakeholder whenever necessary
  • If beneficial to project outcomes, they seek opportunities to share project experiences and lessons learned with stakeholders, other leaders, team members and sponsors
  • Standing up for what's ethical, fair, and right, even when it may not be popular
1 present self professionally
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They demonstrate their best professional self

Great project leaders strive to exude all the qualities that allow them to be at their best, personally and professionally, at all times… or at least as much is possible. They have to speak to shareholders from all parts of the business and be persuasive in those conversations. That requires a special set of skills that include the following.

  • Confidence in their abilities; allowing others to feel confident in their leadership.
  • Humility whenever necessary; allowing others to see them as human.
  • Respect for others at all times; creating higher levels of morale.
  • Trust in others, while remaining trustworthy.
  • Fairness when making decisions.
2 recognize and appreciate
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Recognize and appreciate others

This is an important point that can easily go unnoticed. With the hurried pace of projects these days, project leaders can easily get caught in the rush and forget to recognize some basic human needs in team members, stakeholders, sponsors, and executives. A great project leader makes team members feel included, like they have a voice that matters. He/she also keeps them in the know, recognizing their efforts and connecting them to the big picture and bottom-line.

  • Listen to the ideas of others, regardless of their rank in an organization.
  • Recognize and voice appreciation for the efforts of others.
  • Allow opportunities for individuals to demonstrate their highest-level contributions, and receive recognition for those contributions.
  • Say "thank you" for a job well done (this is so simple, but often left unsaid).
3 keep communication flowing
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Keep the communication flowing

Sometimes keeping the communication flowing even when things may seem at a standstill, creates activity by providing reminders that help, when schedules are hectic and things can easily be missed. Great project leaders recognize on-going communication is paramount to successful business outcomes. With that in mind project managers must remember to regularly do the following.

  • Remind team members, executives and stakeholders that unfinished items still remain in the pipeline.
  • They offer peace of mind for others knowing a project leader is on top of things
  • They make sure there is accountability to stakeholders.
  • Ongoing communications also provides stakeholders with confidence and trust in a project leader's abilities.

[ Related story: Using KPIs to measure a project team's effectiveness ]

4 remain flexible
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Remain flexible

The sheer nature of project management requires a great deal of flexibility. Project leaders who are inflexible simply won't be able to effectively deliver. The more a project leader can adapt and remain flexible the greater chance they have of improving their level of customer service -- and make no mistake, project management is most definitely a high-level, high-visibility customer service field. Leaders need to remain flexible in the areas shown.

Remember, change is truly the one constant in project management, and flexibility will remain a necessity.

  • The ability to adapt to business requirement changes.
  • The ability to remain open-minded when it comes to ideas and innovation.
  • Shifting schedules, these will often change as project parameters shift.
5 acknowledge weakness seek strength
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Acknowledge weakness and seek to gain strength

Yes, project leaders are expected to have a wealth of knowledge and skill, but it's important to recognize and acknowledge project leaders can't know everything. It's equally important for a project leader to know their weaknesses and try to improve in those areas. Why is this important?

  • Recognizing and acknowledging a weakness allows for growth opportunities.
  • It also affords a project leader some humility and reduces the chances of demonstrating arrogance.
  • Great leaders need to recognize they can still learn from others.
6 admit mistakes
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Admit mistakes and allow others to make them

There will never be a project in which mistakes aren't made, the key is reducing them, and their impact. Even the greatest of project leaders will make mistakes, but they will admit they made one and look for opportunities to mitigate the risk in the future. They also allow others to make mistakes and work with them in ways that offers the individual an opportunity to be part of the solution for the future. When a mistake has been made great leaders choose to do the following.

  • Accept that people aren't perfect.
  • Look for positive and innovative solutions to the problem .
  • Help others resolve issues in ways that aren't harmful to an individual's morale.
  • Remain focused on stakeholder needs and successful project outcomes.
7 regularly revisit schedules
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Frequently and regularly revisit schedule & priorities

Paying attention to schedules and priorities may seem to be an automatic part of project management, but ask any project leader, schedules and priorities can easily get away from them during hectic times. Really great project leaders recognize this and revisit both at the beginning and end of their work days.

  • It gives them an opportunity to get ahead of things that may have changed without being .communicated … no surprises.
  • It allows them to be better prepared for unanticipated events.
  • Change can sometimes mean opportunities for greater innovation.
  • Changes to priorities and schedules and even requirements can completely change the scope of a project in detrimental ways.
  • Changes can also greatly impact capacity planning.
8 regularly meet with staff
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Regularly meet with appropriate stakeholders/team members

This doesn't have to be an hour-long formal meeting each day, but regular meetings with appropriate project individuals keeps communication and tasks moving along. It's not always possible to meet face-to-face; meetings can be as little as five minutes and take place over the phone or by videoconference.

Great leaders adapt but make the time to communicate with regularity. They understand that ongoing communication makes up an extremely large part of project success and will make the effort to do the following.

  • Meet weekly with project teams and stakeholders to discuss progress, problems, and next steps.
  • Meet immediately with individuals when conflict arises, to resolve issues and get things back on track.
  • Share ideas, make suggestions or discuss improvements, or listen to others.
9 take breaks
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Take breaks and encourage team members to do the same

By the sheer nature of the field and work required, time commitment and intensity, project management can consume a project leader's day with very little effort. Really great project leaders recognize and accept this and carve out breaks in their day for the following reasons.

  • It provides them and their teams a few minutes to re-focus and re-group.
  • Projects are stressful, making it necessary to de-stress even for a few minutes, a few times/day.
  • Individuals need a chance to stretch and move around to maintain good mind and body health.
  • Breaks increase creativity and improve the chances of getting through the day.
  • It reduces the chances of burnout.