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Three PM Pitfalls

Last week I did a post on the top three skills a project manager should have. This week I’m going to go through the three common mistakes that a project manager can (and will) make at least once in their career.

  • Under-communicate

As I’ve said before in previous posts, I am a firm believer that good communication is the key to successful projects. There are other factors in play but none more important that communication. New project managers are more susceptible to this pitfall than veterans but it’s still a very common and costly mistake. Not a lot of emphasis is put on actual communication planning at the outset of the project however this is a vital step in identifying key stakeholders and what types and methods of communication will be needed. By creating a RACI matrix, this pitfall can be mitigated but the project manager needs to be diligent and disciplined in maintaining communications with all stakeholders.

  • Suffer in Silence

Not all projects go according to plan. In fact, probably the majority of them do not go according to plan. If they did, there wouldn’t be a need to hire experienced and expensive project managers, right? What a lot of project managers do early on in their careers is to not engage others for help to correct a failing project for fear of others’ opinions on their ability. This is such a huge mistake to make. By not engaging others to help where needed on a failing project will likely only make things worse. As a project manager, you may be doing all you can to correct the course but there are times where you simply need the help of other stakeholders to either get the project back on track or make decisions to aid the project. We encourage our teams to speak up when they have roadblocks – why should project managers be any different?

  • Be scared to be Tough

Inevitably through the course of a project manager’s career (or anyone in a leadership position), there will be times where we have to deal with difficult stakeholders. These may be team members, business unit personnel or worst case, project sponsorship. Dealing with difficult personalities can have a profound effect on our own self-assessment. We may begin doubting ourselves in the presence of a self-proclaimed “expert”. We may defer our opinions and not speak out when we feel there is something incorrect being stated as fact. We may not have the personality to pull a lazy team member aside to push them to deliver on their commitments. These are all examples of not getting tough enough in our projects. Nobody seeks out to be a jerk (well mostly nobody), but as a project manager, your first priority is the delivery of the project and sometimes it requires a heavier hand to keep your project on track.

There is no golden playbook to being a great project manager but there is a deep knowledge of lessons learned from experience. These are just three examples of areas to watch out for as you forge ahead in your project management career.

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