The Six Simple Rules: 6. Live your role

… that moment when you were appointed to manage your first project ever – you probably didn’t have a clue what your new role was all about. Suddenly, being an expert in your field was not sufficient anymore. Suddenly, you need to get on with things no one ever told how to do – maybe you are not even sure, what exactly your new duties include.

For new-born project managers the situation above is more common than one might actually think. But even after years of experience, it is always worth to think and re-think your role in your project.

All too often we ‘technically’ know what our role is, but we are still not really aware of it. On some days, we might just behave like ordinary team members. Doing a good job probably, but not the work of the project manager. Especially if you work with a small team, you very often need to do also a lot of the practical project work. It could be that as little as 20% of your time is assigned to the actual managing of the project. If this is the case, then it is quite easy to forget about those 20% altogether.

Therefore, be aware of your role. Live your role! See it as a chance to develop and become a better manager.

The following hints might help you on your way:

See the project as your “baby”

This sounds like a cliché saying. Sure. But it precisely nails it. You are working towards a smooth birth and will look after your baby so that it will grow and flourish. Later you will guide the kid to master everyday life … until it is grown up and leaves your house. Or, talking about a project, until it is finished successfully.

Communicate and inform

Communication is one of the most important factors which decide about the success or failure of a project. As the project manager you are responsible to keep people updated. Don’t forget to communicate both with your team and your seniors. Your team can only do their job if they get all the information they need. Furthermore, they will only be motivated, if you explain the larger context. If you realise someone did not get informed well enough, take measures to prevent this from happening again. Your seniors can only support and value your project if they are kept in the loop regularly and in a timely manner.

Steer and make decisions

You are the pilot, you are the captain who steers the project boat across the stormy sea into the safe harbour. Iceberg ahead? Engine failure? Hard weather approaching? Make decisions. Take countermeasures. Take action. Do not wait for others to do it for you. This is your job!

And when correcting the course, always keep your destination in mind.

Take different perspectives

You cannot manage a project successfully without understanding the needs and agendas of your clients and customers, sub-contractors, and other internal and external stakeholders. Look at your project from their perspectives from time to time. What effects will your decisions have on their end? Try not to stick to your and your team’s side only.

Be pro-active

Maybe this is the most important hint. It is you who is responsible. Don’t wait for others to make your life easier and to prepare everything for you. Always ask yourself, what can you do to lead your project to success.

Did anyone say this is easy? Certainly not! You will need to leave your comfort zone to manage your project – but do not worry, life might be different on the other side, but it is still fun.


Your exercise

Take some time and think about yourself and your project. Do you feel as if you are the captain of this ship? Are you aware, that you are the person to push it forward? If you feel in doubt, make it clear to yourself: You are the one in charge, you are the one responsible.

It is a good trick to sit down each morning and write down the answer to the following question: “What did I do yesterday, to advance my project, to push it forward in the right direction?” Don’t do this in the evening of the same day, do it the following day. If the list is short, this will give you some motivation to make it be longer the next day.

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Alexander Blumenau (*1972) is a portfolio and project manager. With over a decade of international project experience he has been in charge as head of R&D in high-tech industries.
Originally Alexander started his career as a scientist and holds a doctoral degree in Physics. Besides his interests in project management, company processes and structures, he works as a free author and arts photographer.