Project managers put their reputation on the line whenever they lead a project. They often don’t get enough respect from the developers on the teams they manage because PMs are viewed as interlopers who are uninvolved in coding and only want to institute methodologies that some coders see as stifling.

In order to get your team to work effectively to achieve bottom-line goals, it’s crucial to cultivate their respect. Here are seven practical strategies you can use to earn the respect you need to effectively lead your team.

1: Build your time management skills
As the keeper of the project schedule, the project manager needs to be on top of the schedule and enforce deadlines. If time management breaks down, then developers will feel the pinch.

Another key time management skill is the ability to poll the development team members on the time they require to perform tasks. Getting developers wired into the time and scheduling process makes them feel empowered and vested in the overall development process. Your schedules will also factor in the realities of development from developers and be more than just a wild guess or conclusion based on some arbitrary methodology that the developers may not be versed in.

2: Watch your body language
It’s often what people don’t say that speaks volumes about what is truly going on with them and their work. Project managers need to watch their body language when dealing with team members and with clients.

Because project managers sometimes have to deliver bad news, it is important to keep a natural and relaxed body language. If you appear nervous, some members of your team may smell blood and make your job even more difficult.

There are plenty of Web sites that deal with body language and nonverbal communication strategies. You may be surprised what you are communicating to others without even knowing it.

3: Develop your consensus-building skills
Consensus building is an art. It also strengthens the position of the project manager as an arbiter vs. being perceived as a dictator or accused of being detached from the realities of the development cycle. Building consensus over issues can also be very educational for the project manager who may learn about:

  • Political landscape changes.
  • Staff and technical resource issues.
  • Personalities of the development team.
  • Work ethics of the players on the team.

4: Stop, look, and listen
Development team members are often very busy, especially when teams are cross functional, with representatives from multiple company departments. Getting wired into the politics, concerns, and issues of these departments can help you bridge the communication gaps these departments may have with each other and build a network across the company.

5: Always be honest
Honesty is an especially important trait for project managers because credibility in the eyes of the development team is of paramount importance for them to effectively do their job.

If you are caught in a lie as a project manager, your credibility will be lost and team members will see you a hindrance rather than as an asset. Also, development team members will doubly scrutinize any work or schedules you produce.

If words like “socialize,” and “indoctrinate” drift into your thinking when trying to win over developers and clients to your point of view, then stop. While you may not see yourself as being dishonest, the people you deal with and need cooperation from may sense insincerity and dishonesty, which can lead to roadblocks for your project management efforts as well as hinder the development team.

6: Be technically savvy
Project managers are a mixed bunch because almost nobody starts their career out as a project manager. Project managers often enter the job by way of another technical or business-related field.

It’s impossible to stay up to date on every new technology; however, being able to speak intelligently about the technological elements of the development project will only win you the hearts and minds of even the most cynical developer. More practical reasons for becoming technically savvy include being able to realize the risks and limitations of the technological elements in the project you are managing.

7: Revisit the development process early and often
Development processes have their place. However, the development process you and your company developed in 1999 when you were flush with money and resources may not necessarily work in your current environment. You should also review your company’s last couple of development projects. If the team consistently had to deviate from your development process to accomplish their assignments, then it is definitely time to revisit your process to make sure it is reflective of the current state of your team and resources.

Building respect
Building respect is a gradual process. It is wise to gain a “street-level” perspective of the project to augment your high-level business view. This strategy will help you gain and maintain the respect of the team and better serve your customers and your company.