Project Management Checklist: 30 Things the Best Managers Know and Do

The service industry has a unique pain. That is, it’s products are it’s people. Because of this, there are imperative steps involved in managing a project, and team — a project management checklist is a great way to start.

Building a professional relationship with team members not only motivates them to do a better job in their careers, it keeps them loyal. Fostering a culture of deep-rooted respect will benefit not only the associate but also the company.

Let’s face it; the madness of work and life make it easy to be forgetful of the most basic rules of management. I’m far from perfect, but like any relationship, it takes work. That’s why I’ve put together a checklist of daily reminders based on new manager tips and advice on how to be the best manager that I can be.

Everyone’s management style is different. I encourage you to create your own checklist and put it on your desk for reference.

1. Listen

Actively listen with the intent to process the conversation. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. Don’t try to dominate a conversation. Just listen. Take a moment to process. It shows you value what others are saying. You’ll be amazed what you can learn.

2. Start each morning out with a simple “good morning” or a “hello, how are you doing?”

This is so simple. Acknowledging the presence of someone is HUGE in kicking off the day on a positive note. You’ll get a feel for how everyone is feeling. I once was smitten by how a CEO of a large company would ask each associate how they enjoyed their holiday break. This CEO also openly invited any associate to schedule a lunch with him discuss anything at anytime (business or life related). Personally, I remember feeling important to the company. I felt like I had a voice.

3. Address your department’s missions, goals, processes and procedures

Lay out the missions and goals of the company and your department on day one. Making these measurable is helpful in gauging how things are progressing.

4. Hold team meetings so that communication is freely flowing

Host weekly meetings to discuss what projects are happening throughout the week so that the team can work best together. Keep the meetings relatively short and walk away with not only action items but also clarity.

5. Set expectations, roles and responsibilities in the very beginning

Everyone wants to know how he or she fits into the equation and how they can help impact the team’s missions and goals. It makes you feel accountable while providing a sense of purpose.

6. Give credit where credit is due

Part of being a manager is being able to communicate feedback. Managers distribute wins directly to the team. They are comfortable with constructive criticism and often discuss ways to improve. They understand that success is based off of the accomplishments of the team. Psychology tells you that positive reinforcement is effective in shaping behavior. Applaud a win verbally, by email, with a team lunch or a handwritten card.

7. Lead by example

Whether it’s being punctual or being creative, lead by example. Practice what you preach. Be assertive. Confidently make decisions.

8. Smile

Be enthusiastic. A smile says you are approachable. Happy people are contagious. They are fun to be around. No one likes working with a negative Nelly.

9. Don’t lead by fear or create an environment of anxiety

Creating a hostile working environment facilitates an environment that is no longer productive, over time it becomes extremely disruptive. Scaring people has never been proven as a long-term retention strategy.

10. Do not look at people merely as a number

Sure, we all need to hit our goals. Whether it be sales or conversions, we can’t forget that people are human beings. People will be more productive if they are treated with respect and not as an ROI. Feedback and growth plans help associates maximize their potential.

11. Be humble. Be grateful.

A big part of being humble is respecting others. Humble people are honest, trustworthy and do not lead by ego or hidden agendas. Appreciate the talents of each of your team members.

12. Ditch the ego and unnecessary politics

In my experiences, the most admirable people are the ones that do not have to tell everyone how awesome they are. If you are really great at what you do, people will take notice. The quality of your work is proof. We all work hard to get to certain levels in life. Don’t forget where you came from. Carry life’s lessons with you. You’ll not only be grateful, you’ll be happier.

13. Nurture growth

Water the flower to keep it blooming. Review growth plans and help them reach their full potential. No one likes being stagnant. When people become bored, it shows in their performance. You should always drive your team to be the best they can be. That’s where #14 comes in…

14. Promote education

Continuous education is essential in today’s economy. Email your staff pertinent industry information on conferences, trade shows, books, webinars and articles. Be open to learning the latest innovation, new ideas and trends. Providing educational training opportunities is beneficial to the associate and the company.

15. Adopt a work/life balance philosophy

The majority of our lives are spent at work. It’s not easy juggling a full-time job with family life. Life happens. Kids get sick. Moments like birthdays and sporting events happen. Having an understanding manager helps reduce the guilt and stress that come from being a working parent. Whether it’s family time, weekend time or vacation time, everyone needs a break. It’s healthy to promote life outside of the office. You’ll reduce burnout. Employees will be refreshed, have more energy and be happier.

16. Be Respectful

Respect not only people, but also other people’s time. Prioritize what action items are the most important for your staff to work on. With companies experiencing a shortage of staff, it’s essential to not waste hours in long meetings.

17. Ask questions

Ask questions about what’s going on so that you understand what’s happening. I’m not talking about firing off a million emails on one subject. That’s passive-aggressive behavior. Have a conversation in person or by phone. Communication is key.

18. Keep your door open

Have an open door policy for questions, conversations or concerns. When you are not on a conference call, having a personal conversation or hosting a meeting…keep your door open. Closing your door closes off communication. People assume you are standoffish or not available. If you need to close your door to concentrate on a deadline, set aside office hours.

19. Get your hands dirty

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. I’m a huge fan of genchi genbutsu which is a term derived by the Toyota Production System that means “go see” for yourself. In order to understand the situation one needs to go to gemba or, the ‘real place’- where work is done.

20. Be real

Be honest with associates. Effectively communicate constructive criticism along with positive reinforcement. Report on results and metrics. Strategize ways to be better at the end of every project. Lay it all on the line.

21. Stay focused

Multitasking can be a good thing or a terrible thing for managers. There is always a keyboard or a mobile phone in my hands at all times. This causes me to be in too many places at one time. Live in the moment. Stay focused by being organized and allocating a certain amount of time to certain tasks. Take time to think, strategize and write an action plan.

22. Stay calm, cool and collected

Skip the drama. Don’t be emotional. No one wants a leader that “freaks out” in the middle of a crisis. Maintaining a calm, cool and collected demeanor even at the most stressful moments demonstrates your ability to stay in control under pressure.

23. Don’t replace email with social interaction

Have a complex question? Walk down the hall and talk about it. Pick up the phone and call. On a daily basis, have a personal interaction with each member of your team. Don’t hide in your office.

24. Get to the point

With the lack of resources at many companies, time is of the essence. Clearly point out the missions, goals and projects without the business fluff. Albert Einstein said it best; “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

25. Know what motivates them

Motivation is key in understanding your employees. People are motived by a mix of rewards whether it’s monetary, feedback, recognition or time. Learn what makes your employees perform best. Are they comfortable in being recognized in front of their peers for a job well done? Know what drives them toward success.

26. Don’t micromanage

Delegate and trust the expertise of your staff. Based off of what they were hired for, it’s more than likely that they are fully capable of completing the job requirements. Don’t waste your time looking over their shoulders at every given moment. People learn through experiences.

27. Let them be brilliant

By not micromanaging your staff, you give them the freedom to be brilliant. Encourage new ideas or processes for improvement. Be open to technology and innovation. Present opportunities and experiences that challenge your team. Let people take chances and prove themselves.

28. Be transparent

Foster knowledge sharing among team members. Make important documents, resources, software and reports available to help associates understand decisions. Continuously communicate strategic plans on behalf of the company and the department.

29. Host team building events

One of the best ways to bond is to host team building events and lunches. You’ll have the opportunity to get to know your coworkers and work better with them. It will help them feel like they are part of the team. I’ve enjoyed hosting meetings outside of the conference room like outside in the sunshine, at a coffee shop or on a walk.

30. Get to know your associates

The majority of our lives are spent at work. Make it enjoyable. It’s impossible to not get to know your associates. Celebrate milestone events such as birthdays. Learn about their family, hobbies, talents, aspirations and interests.