Project Manager Smith rolled through the security gate of his new office. He nodded to the security guard and the guard smiled in acknowledgement. Smith picked up a freshly brewed cup of latte from the downstairs cafeteria – the earthy aroma with a subtle undertone of hazelnut always served to tantalize his senses.
It was his first week as a Project Manager and Smith was increasingly feeling apprehensive about impressing the board of directors with his dedication and hard work. Taking in few emails, checking the progress of the team, and dealing with grumpy clients and often mountainous projects were his priority.
Did Smith make a strong impression on the board of directors? Was he able to outshine other managers? If you are a project manager and curious to know what happened next, here is an update from the CEO commenting on the performance of Smith.
“With dedication, hard work, and fast growth, Smith made his mark in the first 30 days after joining our organization.”
You might be thinking, how do we know this? Because Smith is part of our company and is now a reputable project manager, managing a team of 20 people. But the important thing is, how did he accomplish so much in so little time?
His secret: right from the word go, Smith made it his mission to concentrate on three areas: People, Product, and Personal:
- Develop a clear understanding with your CEO or a manager
If you are new to a company, chances are that you need to learn a lot about the company. And in order to do that, you need to spend a lot of time with the higher authorities. Talk to them about the vision of the company and align your projects in a way that helps the organization move towards the company objectives. The more you nurture relations with the CEO or the manager, the greater will be your chances of establishing that understanding which will benefit the company.
- Meet a lot of people
When you step into a new company, you are in an entirely strange realm. Before you start dictating your terms, spend some time with the people. Arrange a couple of vis-a-vis hangouts with your team and bring them all on the same page. Ensure that everything you do is ultimately guiding you towards the vision of your company.
- Ask this questions first
A manager assumes the role somewhat akin to a parent. What is the duty of a parent? To take care of their kids. To a manager, his team is everything. Before you start working with the crew, pop this question to every member of your team:
“What can I do to make your life easier?”
By holding out the olive branch, not only will your team warm up to you sooner and embrace the transition well, it will also make it clear to them that it is in their own interest to make the work environment as peaceful as possible. This reduces the likelihood of inter-team conflicts as well.
- Do the hard work yourself
The top priority of a manager is to save their teams from incurring any pitfalls or becoming overburdened. To do that, you need to take some load off your team. For instance, if you absolutely have to assign an imperative task over the weekend, ask them to join you for a movie the next day. This will help them relax a bit and be more forthright with you.
- Understand the product
Don’t go for a manual to understand the product. Have a chat with the product developer and ask your own questions. In our case, we have an online task management tool that helps managers automatically assign tasks when resources are free. In your case, that might be a physical product or a service. Sit down with the people responsible for bringing the product to life, and proceed from there onwards.
- Don’t just jump-in & initiate things
When you step into a new role, you might feel an overwhelming urge to change processes that you deem inappropriate or do somethings in a better way. Smith recommends holding back a bit in the beginning, after all you don’t want to ring an alarm and give offense. Nobody likes a new recruit snooping around and telling them how they can perform their task better. Glean some credibility within the company before you go forward with the ideas bubbling inside your mind.
- Think like a user
Spend your early days with the end users of your company product. Talk to them, Skype with them, and communicate via email. Take some to the support tickets, engage with the users and find that sweet spot that unites your company product and the needs of the users.
- Fix it
Smith is a firm believer in fixing the small things first before jumping to the bigger picture. A bug before a launch will help you enhance the product before its launch. The thing about a great product is that it makes it easier for the user to solve their problems in the simplest way. If the product can do this, go for it, otherwise fix it.
- Read as much as you can, and write what you cannot remember
Read anything and everything that you get your hands on. From specs, design documents, old OKRs, to even an article that is written about your company. Be the most educated person in the room. Read whatever you can and write what you cannot remember.
- Set personal goals
Switching jobs frequently shows that you are not clear about your career. Try to build personal goals in the first month of any new job. Start small and move up to where you want to go. Setting goals will help you in your personal life and also aid you in your goal of aligning yourself with the company objectives.
- Get every tool that can help you in your quest
The best managers are the ones who do things smart and fast. And for that, Smith used a couple of online tools. To automate email responses, set Google News alerts for the products of their competitors, and everything that can save their time by automating things.
I don’t believe in flowery advice that is present in the books. For me, the best advice often comes from people who struggled industriously, failed a lot and still got back up on their feet, and have a propensity to improvise as things go by. The above nuggets of wisdom are picked from a manager who worked his way up the success ladder. Follow these and see yourself at the top of the rings as well.