Every project manager has to deal with stress. Complex projects, difficult deadlines and changing conditions all contribute to a stressful work environment. The project manager is in a unique situation to reduce the stress levels of a project. Here are 10 ways a project manager can reduce stress.
Have a documented project plan – Project Management 101
It’s the basics of project management. A documented plan includes : objectives, timelines, roles and responsibilities, and dependencies. The simple fact that you have a structured approach will reduce stress for you and for others.
Share information with the team
Ensure all team members have access to information and understand the project plan. Each team member should be clear on their role and responsibilities. The plan exists for a reason – make sure team members understand the overall context of the project.
Know the team
Get to know the team you are working with. Understanding their other obligations can help you identify current and future roadblocks to success. Getting to know their personalities enables you to know what to expect and address potential objections before they are raised.
Create a shared sense of urgency
Project teams tend to be cross departmental. That means people have different objectives and timelines outside the project. If you can tie the goals of the project back to team member’s overall goals, you’ll be more successful in creating the same level of urgency to meet deadlines.
Gain explicit agreement
When dealing with groups and group dynamics, project managers often rely on implicit agreement. If someone doesn’t object or say no, agreement is assumed. Then people don’t deliver what you thought they agreed to. Have an explicit conversation and invite team members to share obstacles in order to get agreements to “stick”.
Provide opportunities for discussion
Project managers love structure and planning. They pride themselves on not wasting other people’s time. But don’t plan for every minute of your meetings to cover itemized topics. Leave time for discussion. Better yet, bake it into your agenda by foreseeing topics that will need group discussion versus topics that can be delivered without exchange.
Address naysayers and hostile team members
Every project has them. They are team members who just aren’t in sync with the team and are constantly pushing back. Don’t ignore them, engage them. Spend the time (preferably 1:1) to understand their perspective. Help them understand “what’s in it for me?”. And when you can’t win them over, address their objections as best you can and move on.
Communicate change openly
When there are major changes in plan it is critical to communicate effectively. Provide context about the change – what is changing and why. Proactively work to understand and acknowledge the impact of the change to deadlines and team members. Be flexible on milestones and communicate unalterable deadlines.
Be tough on problems, soft on people
Yup, people miss deadlines, make a fuss, make mistakes. It’s gonna happen. When they do, you can avoid additional stress by focusing on the problem, not on assigning blame. Ask questions to understand what is going on and keep the focus on how to resolve the problem, not on the emotions the problem has evoked.
Defuse emotional situations
Stay tuned to how others are acting and reacting. If an emotional situation has arisen, don’t just brush it under the rug. Acknowledge it and agree on when it will be addressed. When discussing the situation, encourage focus on the facts but ask questions to understand what is driving the strong emotions.