Last Updated Mar 5, 2010 9:48 AM EST
2. Listen -- with all your senses. Project management is like marriage. Imagine you ask your spouse, "How was your day?" and you get a terse, "Fine, just fine" in response. Is anyone reading this foolish enough to believe that their day was fine? Why do we think those we work with are any more rational than our spouses? I know you're trying not to waste time, but keep your ears open for vague assurances of understanding. Be assertive about asking questions until you're comfortable with the answers.
3. Use all the tools available to you. It's what they don't put in the email that kills you. it's very tempting when managing projects from afar to take a "no news is good news" approach. They're professionals -- surely they'll let you know if there's something you need to be aware of, right? But remember: email doesn't let you hear the hesitation in their voice, note the fear in their eyes, or see the crossed fingers when they say they'll make their deadlines. Project management requires a full range of communication tools, from webcams to the telephone to actually meeting face to face. PMs need to be comfortable communicating through all these tools.
Project management is a critical skill as well as a bit of an art. As you work on cross-functional and virtual-project teams with people who don't share your expertise, the ability to listen and understand, as well as transmit information across the ether, will be a core competency -- even for those poor mortals who don't (yet) speak fluent Project Management.