Updated: Mar 24
As we progress in our project management careers, ultimately at some point it will become a responsibility to mentor or develop a more junior project manager. Whether it is part of our job description as a department manager or that we are leaned on for being a senior resource, there will come a time when our organizations lean on us to help bring the more junior members of our project management team along.
Communicate (and Manage) Expectations
This goes with just about any job – from project manager to software developer to ditch-digger to professional athlete – making sure the employee understands what is expected of them and managing your own expectations of what you think you can get out of them. Having a job description to go by is a great start but also having a defined list of roles and responsibilities is great. By having a delineated list of what each project role is responsible for (which will vary by methodology and organization), you can very clearly indicate to your mentee what they will be expected to do as part of their project management responsibilities. As there are times when roles can sometimes overlap with one another, it is important to make sure your project manager understand what is expected (and not expected) of him or her.
Coach by Showing, Not by Telling
I’ve always been a big proponent of hands-on learning but also hands-on teaching. Words can only go so far to teach someone a concept but by actually showing and demonstrating how to do something you can show your mentee how you expect the job to be done. This can be especially useful when demonstrating the ‘softer’ skills of being a project manager such as dealing with client escalations or running a planning session with your team. Things such as being a good communicator, speaking concisely, showing up prepared are all things that can be taught much more effectively by taking a more hands-on mentoring approach. By taking this direction, your mentee can pick up on some of the finer points that you may neglect to tell them about when coaching these items – word choices, how to react to an angry client, how to respectfully push back on a scope change to name just a few. By spending the time to show your mentee how you expect things to be done can go so much farther than shortcutting the process by just telling them what you want.
Job shadowing is not a new technique but yet one that still is very effective today. By having your mentee shadow either yourself or another senior team member, it is incredibly useful to have them get that perspective and be able to put together both what is expected of them (roles & responsibilities) and how the tasks are expected to be done (coach by showing). This also gives the mentor the ability to reflect on how they are conducting themselves and performing their tasks to make sure that they are doing it in such a way that is worth repeating by the mentee.
Developing team members is an inherent part of any manager’s job and the lifeblood of any successful organization. Following these tips will help set your project manager development program on the path for providing a solid stable of project managers.