The Empowered PM: The Art of Project Management

Project managers walk a fine line every day. There is a constant struggle between anticipating the resource needs on a project and not favoring a certain stakeholder. The role of a project manager is to advocate for the project while maintaining its integrity throughout the process, and all the while, keeping it on budget and on time.

There are two primary types of project managers: Domineering and Empowering. The difference? The domineering PM is focused on getting people to conform to their own goals, while the empowering PM is behind the scenes being active and engaged, and encouraging collaboration. The empowering PM also works hard to build up the team while ensuring there is clear communication across all departments.

Both PM types can help produce a successful project, but the latter will most likely lead to higher quality work for our clients. Why? This leadership style produces a better internal culture whose associates are more fulfilled. When a team can walk away from a project knowing they contributed to its success, then it should be considered a win for both your clients and your internal teams.

Being an empowered project manager

As the director of our project management team, I have learned to strike a balance between meeting the needs of our internal stakeholders and the project, as well as how to act as an empowered project manager.

Once a new campaign lands on my desk, I immediately start evaluating the project. I consider the scope of work, the client and the internal team(s) it will require to complete the project. This not only helps me estimate and create the timeline, but also helps me begin the process of anticipating the challenges the team might face. This is what I call the art of understanding. The way I see it, a successful project manager has to be one step ahead of everyone, have a proactive mindset, and watch out for all potential land mines. Intuition is also a powerful tool of the trade, along with the ability to learn and adjust from past mistakes.

Another vital aspect of being an empowered project manager is learning the art of perception. Let’s be honest, everyone is looking at a project through a different lense. We all come with our past experiences, our talents and our personal goals. The project manager is the person in the company that must be at the center of the project and has to balance the needs of every department with an unbiased viewpoint. With that viewpoint, they are the one person who has the advantage of a unique perspective.

Another aspect of empowered project management is having their head above the water looking at the holistic view of the project to see where compromises can be made while ensuring the project is headed in the right direction. A successful project manager has a general understanding of each team member’s skill set. They cannot and do not have the skills to do each person’s job, but they have to understand and have empathy for each discipline represented.

Overall, part of what makes our teams great is the wide range of personalities and skill sets. A great project manager should seek to be empowered and understand how each person prefers to work and what motivates them. Earning, building and maintaining trust from every team member is vital, and investing in a person will go a long way— especially when a project hits a roadblock. Having a clear understanding of each individual’s goals helps the PM clear a path so each person can realize their success while trying to help them avoid issues they may not spot.

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