For many, one of the highlights of being a Project Manager is getting to sit at the head of the table. While there is always a need to balance team input with your own in every meeting, the fact of the matter is that typically, you are in the spotlight. For better or worse, many eyes are looking toward your guidance on many, many issues. This is often an attraction to PM’s and occasionally a stressful burden. However, it is more than just what you say…so often PM’s lose sight of the fact that not only is everyone watching; they are watching everything.
I could write posts for weeks on the importance of communication in projects. What is typically understated is not the frequency, but the subtleties of written and non-verbal communication and their impacts on the team. It is critical that the PM not only recognize that they are the focal point of communication and information distribution with the team, but that your actions and body language are being watched by all.
Every email you write must be composed for public distribution. You just can’t rely on the privacy of your documentation and must never insinuate your personal opinions regarding team members. It is tantamount to slander and gossip. Such behavior is human nature to engage in, but you must rise above it to achieve true respect and trust as a project manager. Your body language in meetings is also critical. Everyone is watching! Remain conscious of your poker face and remain positive in the face of negative feedback or uncooperative team members. This is not a call to PM’s to become soft…but if stern positions need to be taken, do so privately and directly, not in front of the team as a whole. How many times have you lost the respect and support of teammates because of your overflowing frustration? How many times have you been a part of a team where you lost respect for a leader because of their unprofessional behavior? All efforts are for naught should you cross that line. Trust is fragile and your reputation for impartiality and fairness is your signature; protect it and practice protecting it as you would any other PM skill.
Finally, not only are your actions and words constantly on display for all teammates to interpret, they are free to be received individually and in a context you never intended. Clarity is your friend, but you also need honest and frequent feedback. A topic for another post, confidential and genuine constructive criticism must be a part of any PM’s circular learning loop for continuous improvement.
Honestly, when’s the last time you lost your composure as a PM, how did it impact your team, and how did you recover?