How to Keep Your Project Manager Happy

Written by Joey Hays on

Have you worked with a project manager lately? Have you ever thought about how you could help a PM do their job well? Good PMs know how to create beautiful Gantt charts, take copious notes and, heck, even play the role of team therapist, but we PMs are only as successful as the people around us. It’s not just the “what” but it’s also the “who” that makes a PM successful and happy! Here are some of the qualities my colleagues exhibit that help me do my job – and keep me smiling. 😁

Being Proactive

At Cloud Four, we have a tenant we live by: Share early, share often. When we’re in the weeds of a project, things can be super hectic making sharing all but forgotten. But, remembering to share updates, potential blockers, or even that Trello cards need a different priority order is always welcomed and helpful. When my colleagues take the initiative, raise their hands and tell me something before I even know to ask – chef’s kiss 🤌🏼

Recently, we had just finished a client meeting and before I could even review my noted action items, a colleague had already reached out via Slack with their plan to address some of them. My job just got much easier with fewer cats 😻 to herd, which is a welcomed help since, you know, that pandemic is still going on and we work from home exclusively, which can make follow-ups challenging. To top it off, the client was also included in this update, so double the appreciation because it was one less communication I had to jumpstart!

Aside: For any non-PMs reading this, you might be wondering why it would take so long to disseminate meeting notes. 🤷🏻‍♀️ The notes we share after meetings are carefully reviewed and rewritten as most of us PMs take notes in ways that only make sense to us. We take the time to translate our notes for the larger team, which can delay assigning and acting on action items by a tad. So, by team members being proactive, it can help information move faster.

Being Collaborative

We work in a highly collaborative environment, which involves creative problem solving & critique from fellow developers and designers. Knowing your colleagues are helping to make the best project ever and not pooping all over your ideas, sets the entire team up for a successful project. 🤝

I recall preparing a schedule for a project where I thought I knew the size of tasks because of past work we had done for this client. Turns out, after sharing the tasks and timeline with the team, I underestimated the size of about half the project. 🥵 If it weren’t for their helpful critiques, we would have overshot the timeline and been on shaky project ground with the client.

Being a Note Taker

When a colleague is active and engaged in ceremonies like stand-ups, project meetings and time keeping it can make all the difference, but when they take their own notes and don’t rely solely on mine?! Be still my heart! 💖

Oftentimes, PMs are focused on bigger picture items like schedule or budget and possess a limited understanding of the tech jargon. That can result in us missing an important item discussed between developers.

When developers and designers take their own 📝 notes, they capture the things that are important for them to do their job, while PMs capture the things that are important for the overall project and relationship. This demonstrates that our colleagues are paying attention and are invested in the conversation. Not to mention, it takes the pressure off of a PM and their notes as the sole source of documentation.

Aside: When you refer back to notes a PM drafted, make sure to tell the PM you found those notes helpful. It really makes our day, month, or even year to know the documentation we prepared has helped and supported our teammates.


Being an Explainer

Any PMs in the room who get lost in the dizzying depths of code convos? 🙋🏼‍♂️Yeah, me too. But, a developer who takes the time to explain something in terms we can understand is invaluable. We don’t need to know everything, but knowing the basics of the problem, the risks, and the solution helps us adjust timelines and communicate with stakeholders.

I don’t know nearly as much about design systems as my colleagues do, but they have taken the time to explain pattern libraries and the dependencies to me in a way that helped me field client questions during a call just this last week. Collaboration and cooperation save the day! 💪🏼

Pro-tip: Getting people to explain (like, actually talking amongst each other) a problem or solution aloud can also help the developer see the issue from a different angle, sometimes illuminating other problems or gaps to a solution that weren’t immediately visible before.

These qualities I mention above are just a smattering of the things I find helpful and my colleagues exhibit way more qualities that keep their little ol’ PM happy – some even unknown to me, I bet. No matter the role or the project, each team member is helping us reach our goals. I encourage you to reflect on your colleagues and ask yourself how you might make their job easier? 🤔 Also, remember to let them know how they make your job easier and appreciate them for it. 🥳

Joey Hays

Joey Hays is a digital project manager at Cloud Four. When his laptop is shut, he's outside cycling, playing with his dogs, exploring the PNW / world with his partner, rum tasting, and eating burritos, tacos & pesto dishes.

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