I was having drinks a few weeks ago with a group of friends. While chatting, someone asked what I do as a Project Manager. As I explained how I sit between the more technical project team and the business, keeping the project moving forward and the lines of communication open, our friend John commented, “In other words, you’re the glue.”
Glue… Yes, I thought, that’s about right. Project Managers are the glue that holds the project together.
But that’s not all.
We’re also WD-40… or olive oil (I’m a better cook than mechanic). When there’s a roadblock of any kind, our job is to get the gears moving smoothly again. Everything works better with a PM around.
So how do we make sure we’re the best glue? The best oil?
- Ask questions. The most effective Project Managers understand a little bit about everything. They’re naturally curious. Asking questions not only increases tactical project knowledge; it builds relationships, which eases communication later in the project when things get hectic.
- Think a few steps ahead. This is different than planning, though planning is important, of course. And it looks farther into the future than a one-step “option-think.” It’s more like a chess master, who sees the next possible moves and outcomes to quickly adjust when their opponent moves their piece.
- Lend a hand. It’s okay to do some testing if your team members are swamped. If there’s no one to create the training materials and you can, go for it. Even the offer to help, if it’s sincere, gives your team a feeling that they are understood and supported.
- Maintain your composure. My dad is an example of a calm and collected leader. In fact, when we were young, my brother and I used to call him “Mellow Man.” When projects run into trouble, all eyes turn to the leader. If the Project Manager remains cool under pressure, their team will be reassured. The less drama, the more flexible our minds are, and the better the ideas for getting the project back on track. Be a Mellow Man!
Your job as a Project Manager is to bring the project, including your most important asset (your team!), to successful completion. If you’re struggling with a project that is out of control, take a few moments to remember this. Then start looking for the people and areas that are drifting away. You can calmly guide them back by asking questions, thinking a few steps ahead, and giving them a hand when they need it.
Finally, keep in mind that a project evolves until it’s closed and the team has dispersed. Your role as the glue that holds the project together and the oil that keeps it moving forward is not just critical, it’s perennial. While a good idea, hard work, or mitigated risk is relevant only until the next challenge appears, you’ll be prepared for whatever happens in the future.