In the world of business, you will need to eventually cut your teeth on some kind of leadership role. Projects are the first kind of leading roles that managers will give employees. Most people aren’t prepared for this level of responsibility because of what it entails. Now, you’re not only having to be the creative brains behind the idea, manage different kinds of people but also, keep the finances in check.

Everything that allows a project to evolve from blueprints to reality, depends on your shoulders. It's little wonder than that many people don’t decide to take on higher positions until they know they are ready. But how do you become ready? You should be listening to people who have seen and done it before you.

These don’t have to be people from your line of work, just leaders in general that can enlighten you on the kinds of things you will go through. It also depends on what kind of project you’re dealing with. It could be marketing, financial planning, sales, research, social engagement or literally anything else. But, let’s go with the most common which is a product project. 

Standard vs waterfall technique

It has been noted that creative people often struggle with structured approach project management. This is because most of the time, they are looking at things from a perspective of creating something that can do something and not creating something within the realms of what it can’t do.

It sounds complex but really, it's just two different schools of thought that you will need to understand when it comes to leadership. The classic technique is when you use a waterfall effect for structuring the project and indeed, your team. This will begin with the aim of the project, what you intend to accomplish then coupling this with what you know your business is capable of.

Sure consumers would love to have a car with an engine that is 1.0-litre and producing 250bhp, but your technology can only do 150bhp. Therefore you have to know what limits you not what you can do. It gives you a much more accurate picture of what is possible.

The waterfall technique will make sure the hierarchy is properly implemented with the smartest people getting their say with regards to research and overall development. 

The standard and definitely the simplest approach to project management is to give small tasks out to different teams and seeing what they come up with. You’ll also be allocating resources a lot more fluidly. You’ll plan out the course of action day by day or week to week.

You will need to monitor the feedback you get from your employees and this may change your outlook and performance. You’ll also need to keep a check on quality and nurse everyone along to meet deadlines. This is a technique that doesn’t necessarily deal with complex problems, but rather smaller issues and inches closer to the ideal end result.

Flexibility and helping employees

For the first time you’ll be motivating employees and giving them the confidence they need to perform their tasks well. Not everyone does, but many employees will have rises and dips in their confidence and understanding of what their role is. A product project might take a couple of years to finish, which means it will be a long and at times arduous responsibility.

The initial planning stages might take a quarter of a year before you’re even ready for some tests to see what your team is capable of. What this also means is that for however long the project is going to be, you need to consider what the needs of your employees will be. T

ake a look at New England College Online where they have written an in depth article on this topic. They not that employees want flexibility, the option of using different software and technologies to get their tasks done. Generation Z especially want their job to be fulfilling as 74% would like their role to be meaningful.

It's a good idea then to keep everybody in the loop. Allow departments to work separately but keep them abreast of what is going on around them and how their work is making a positive impact on the project as a whole. They also work better autonomously as micromanaging them leaves them to believe the project head, thinks they are incompetent.

It's good practice to give clear instructions or the task at hand and then let them get on with it. Showing trust in your team can be done by simply leaving them alone and not visibly babysitting them. If they do need help, make yourself available without hesitation and guide them where you can.

Weekly project status meetings

Every project leader will need to have senior members of the team that will lead small groups. For example, a CEO will have a Director of Sales, a Head of Marketing etc. These are the departments leaders which runs the various different teams and tasks that will all add to the project.

As team leader you need to appoint people who you trust to be in such roles. You’ll need to have weekly status meetings on Monday and the end of the working week. 

The Monday meetings shall be to recap what occurred last week but mainly to go through what the tasks for the week will be next. Make adjustments where you can by giving more resources or time to teams. The end week meetings will be to recap what went wrong and what progress has been made.

This clearly sets out what objectives have been met and what others are still outstanding. It's a check in and check out process that keeps you informed and keeps the leading members of the team on the same page to guide the rest of the employees.

First time leaders will always have nerves about leading a project. It's natural to be this way but you can shake off these nerves by focusing on what kind of overall technique you’ll be using to lead the project.

Will it be a standard technique where small groups are used and you will go off the success of each day, or will you use the waterfall technique where there is a hierarchy of competency?