Business Strategies for Managing Up
By: Matt Chumley | Project Manager
Coming from someone who jumped into the IT consulting world as a project manager at a young age, the realization hit pretty quickly that managing resources on my projects that are older and more experienced would be a challenge. Learning various ways to approach and handle this challenge became an absolute necessity if I had any hopes of being successful in a project management position. It became very clear starting with project number one of my career – project success was directly impacted by my business relationships among those resources working on each project.
The primary goal as a project manager is to become the most effective employee possible and creating value for company. The best path to accomplishing this goal includes creating healthy relationships with everyone you work with. Here are a few of the most important aspects of “managing up” that I have learned as a young project manager.
Realizing How Much You Can Learn From Co-Workers
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a project manager (of any age) is to refuse to learn from the resources on your team. In virtually every case throughout my career, project team members have been with the company for years, they’ve worked on similar projects multiple times in their past, and have already developed problem solving skills that can be applied to current projects/situations. The best and most beneficial way to utilize this is by opening up meetings/dialogue to allow your team members to become resources for you to learn what works and what doesn’t within the company. They’ve been with the company longer than you, and therefore can help you be successful. Also, chances are obviously very high that someone working on your project has already done the necessary technical steps in the past. In result, the project manager can be more effective by using their technical knowledge to determine project milestones and timelines.
On weekly, sometimes daily, basis, I will ask team members if they’ve seen a particular problem before and what the correct course of action was in the past. I will run my own ideas across them as far implementing a solution so that they can give me advice on how a particular project can be more efficient. Most of the time, my co-workers have been more than willing to spread their knowledge. In the end, everyone is happy because the project is successful and I now have further knowledge to make my next project even more effective than the last.
Respect From the Project Team Members Already Exists, So Long As You Do Your Job
It is incredibly important to understand that the employees working on your projects are focused on project success, and they are not focused on the age or experience of the project manager. It becomes a huge problem if a young or new project manager feels the need to prove themselves while running a project instead of focusing strictly on client satisfaction. At the beginning of my career, I found myself trying to avoid challenging my project team members that were older or a held a high position within the company, thinking I could end up being embarrassed. That
is simply a mistake. The truth is that team members do have a healthy respect for any other young employee, and “challenging” them can actually enhance that respect as long as it is done in the correct way. If a manager does not do things like challenge team members, recognize the success of teamwork, and provide proper resources to the team, then that is when respect can be lost. At that point, a project manager is simply not doing their job – so the two points of doing your job and respect are directly related, regardless of age/experience.
You Can Relate to Each Project Team Member, Regardless of Age or Experience
When I started as a project manager in the IT consulting business, it seemed like I would never be able to relate to those I was managing on a particular project – whether it was because of age, experience, or their job title. In reality, there are a number of ways to connect with your fellow employees. This is incredibly important for project managers, because developing personal connections allows them to figure out how to motivate team members and figure out what makes each person produce their best effort. Working part-time as a teenager in college at a restaurant, it was easy as I was working people in the exact same spot in life for the most part – trying to earn some extra cash while concentrating on schoolwork. Now, it is more difficult because I’m now managing people that are a decade older than me and have been in this business much longer than I have. I have learned that building some kind of personal connection is still possible. I can still ask about past work experiences, career aspirations, and even their families because I have all of those things too, they just may look different than those that are older with more experience. Young managers in the business world will be much more successful if they find effective ways to “manage up”.