Break Time

As Project Manager you may be quick to light fires and emphasize to your team the importance of constantly remaining on schedule. This may seem like a never-ending task for ‘ye of broad shoulders’ and a loathsome deterrent to those less motivated by the flame. The point is; you have to recognize when to give ‘em a break!

Every project is time sensitive to one degree or another. As PM’s we have to draw a line in the timeline sand in order to keep from letting things ramble on in perpetuity. It is critical to our success as managers to not become the “sky is falling” guy by learning to carefully prioritize what is truly urgent on our projects and to convey the hot topics with only slightly more clarity and emphasis as we do the not so hot ones. That is, we should be quick to compromise on due dates when possible; we should be clear and emphatic when something is not time sensitive just as we are when something is.

Just as every project is time sensitive, every team member has other priorities in their work / personal life than this project. While you may be fully committed to 60+ hour work weeks and full throttle accelerated schedules, you had better assume that your team is not until significantly communicated otherwise. That is not to say that they are not interested in meeting deadlines or doing a good job, it is just that they too have a project to manage that is their own world and they can do a better job as a team member if you are clear and fair with them as to what is and is not time critical. Make sure you take the time to understand your teammates’ personal projects outside of the team and what they are facing besides the project deadlines. Offer generous concessions and constant opportunity for their input to develop deadlines that can and will be met.

At times, I have practiced many managerial techniques, including the ‘squeaky wheel’ approach. Over time, however, if you continue with this style, there will be a nursery rhyme result. The PM who cried wolf. Make sure when you put your foot down it is respected. Make sure when there is a deadline that is firm, it is met. Make sure when you need help or there is an issue, you receive the support you need. The way to do this is not by being intimidating, authoritative, or demanding; it is by being clear, fair, and generous.

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