4 things new project managers should learn to be effective

Being new to project management can be nerve-racking. Fear not, these four things can help set you up for success as a new project manager.

Project manager directing employees

Image: istock/gorodenkoff

Although you may be new to the world of project management, or just playing a formal management role, understanding your stakeholders and what's important to them, and knowing your strengths and weaknesses can go a long way to learning how to address situations and become more effective. 

SEE: How to build a successful project manager career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Understand your stakeholders

Getting to know your internal and external stakeholders is an essential skill in being able to navigate situations. These are just some of the stakeholders you may encounter, and you'll need to understand how they fit into the project and its goals. This will help to identify areas and timing of their involvement in the project. They'll need to be documented at the start of the project to ensure nothing goes unaddressed throughout the project lifecycle.

  • Internal: These can be your team members, project sponsors, and other functional group members.
  • External: These are vendors, government, and other entities that impact or are impacted by the project. 

SEE: 5 lessons project managers can learn from the first 2020 US presidential debate (TechRepublic)

2. Understand what's important to stakeholders

It is necessary to identify and document who the stakeholders are and how they are vested in the project. You'll need to try to understand what motivates each stakeholder. This will become helpful when issues and obstacles arise throughout the project. By understanding motivations, you're more likely to be successful in devising effective solutions. To do this, you will need to conduct a stakeholder analysis and mapping. It's essential to document which stakeholders have the most significant impact on the project and why and how. You'll also need to understand who is most impacted by the success or failure of the project. Some stakeholder motivations can be financial, operational, or a host of other motivations. 

SEE: 5 traits other leaders can learn from successful project managers (TechRepublic)

3. Know your strengths and weaknesses

How well you do as a project manager depends on understanding where you excel and where you fall short in skills and training. Even the most seasoned project managers can find this task tricky because it involves getting very honest with yourself. This area can be more challenging to navigate without conducting a personal talent skills gap analysis. It may be helpful to ask a peer or previous manager to assist you in ensuring you're capturing your real strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, what we think we're good at isn't entirely realistic, and areas where we believe we aren't doing well, may be inaccurate. By understanding this, we can recognize areas where we need help from others to not blindside when issues crop up.

SEE: Here's how project and program managers can improve delivery after the pandemic (TechRepublic)

4. Recognize how to address shortcomings

It's not enough to know where your shortcomings are; you'll also need to understand how and when to address things. This doesn't just mean your skill-based defects, but also areas where your team struggles to meet the bar. The talent skills gap analysis provides information about where your risks lie. Now you can use tools like a risk matrix to develop a quantitative or qualitative risk analysis and strategies to address gaps. This should be done early in the project to help you recognize where you need help and who will fill the gaps that exist. 

You may be a new project manager, but that doesn't necessarily mean you are at a disadvantage. These four tips can help you fill the role like a pro and get you the respect of a seasoned project leader.

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By Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder of PMWorld 360 Magazine and Lead-Her-Ship Group, and a project management and digital workplace columnist for various publications. Moira has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large busine...