How do you manage without being a manager?

The toughest thing about being a project manager is the question of how to motivate a bunch of different people and how to get them to cooperate.

Most commonly, the project manager isn’t the boss of the people participating in the project, but it’s important to emphasize that no matter which position he or she may have in the company, the project manager is the boss of the specific project. And even if he or she is not in a managerial position in the group, the person in charge should want to use some of the same tools that managers use, when they cooperate with their team.

There are many ways to do this, which will also depend on your style and personality, but here are some good tips that have worked well for me:

  • Enthusiasm. Who wants to get involved in something delivered in a monotone voice and body language that screams “I just want to get this over with”? Right? It’s well worth the effort to concentrate on adding both enthusiasm and energy to how you deliver your messages to your team. Make no mistake; it’s infectious! Of course you don’t want to go overboard and try to fake it, but take notice of how much of a difference it makes. I’ve seen quite a few management presentations over the years, where the person in charge didn’t seem all that excited about the project, and even though they have probably meant well, the likelihood of employees racing back to their desks to start implementing have been rather slim.
  • Take the lead. Responsibility is something you can be given, but more importantly; it is also something you can take. If you wish to be seen as the leader of a project, you need work on it. You shouldn’t be afraid to stick your head out and start things up, and you shouldn’t be afraid to speak your mind and ask those difficult questions along the way, if they are necessary for the success of the project. If you don’t, you will soon see your own role reduced to note-taker, getting bossed around. This goes against the whole idea of being a project manager – you need to be the one who gets the project moving along in the right direction.
  • Be flexible. The balance is that you don’t want to get to rigid towards your team members. Even when there is a goal and a plan, there will be instances where you need to change the game plan along the way, and you need to be prepared and willing to do that. I had an interesting conversation with a colleague of mine not too long ago. His view was that the most successful employees are the ones who are willing and able to work towards a moving target. I you can accept this and embrace this notion; you won’t be too frustrated when things starts changing around you.
  • Listen up. Listen to your team members and be sure to also listen for what they don’t say. You want to make sure that your team hasn’t just accepted a decision under false pretense. The best way to do this is to establish a more informal contact outside of the meeting room. Get on your feet and swing by your team members for a more casual talk about how things are going. You will find that if you do this in a relaxed manner, you will get all sorts of valuable information on both problems and opportunities.
  • Toughen up. If the project is being derailed and some of your team members or suppliers simply aren’t delivering what they have agreed to or even compromising the work, you need to set things straight. A lot of people shy away from this out of fear of coming across as too bossy, but there are situations where it’s the only option if you want to move the project forward. The earlier in the project you address the problem, the more likely it is that you will avoid huge conflicts.
  • Smile! I’m not saying you should fake it, but everything goes just a little bit smoother if it’s done in a positive and fun way. There’s no rule against having fun at work, and if you are able to incorporate a bit of fun into an otherwise serious topic, by all means go for it!

I hope you found food for thought in this article. Maybe you are already doing the things I mentioned or maybe you have run into other problems? I would love to hear about them, so drop me a comment below. And I would love it if you would share the post with your network – go ahead and click on one of the buttons below.


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About the author  Lise Halskov

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