What makes an effective project team? That will be an effective project manager.
The definition of a project is that it is a temporary endeavour, undertaken to create a product, service or result. That is very different to managing day-to-day operations, and it requires a person with unique qualities and traits to see it through.
Many project managers are born into the role – they are natural leaders who have a knack for getting stuff done. For others, the role is taught over time, with years of learning and experience moulding them into the project managers of today. Whatever the case, it is vital for project managers to possess and/or develop the following 10 qualities and traits:
1. Leadership skills
There is more than one of these. Good project managers are effective communicators, are honest people and are great at building relationships. Loyalty, decisiveness and charisma are also key factors that make a strong leader.
Although it is sometimes listed as a leadership skill, the ability to motivate people is much more about psychology. It comes naturally to the best project managers who have an uncanny ability to motivate the seemingly unmotivated. However, there are a number of tools and techniques that project managers can adopt to assist them with motivating others, such as SMART goal setting, celebration of success and others.
An effective project manager never puts the team down. Criticism should be constructive and helpful. The approach to correcting individual wrongs should be a private one; good project managers never ‘tell off’ or belittle people in front of others. They command respect by showing it and help people flourish.
4. Organised and efficient
The best project managers have their project management process down to an artform. They have excellent organisational skills and know where to assign people to get the most out of them. They are able to find efficient solutions to complex issues and know when to cut their losses or abandon a fool’s errand.
5. Problem solver
A spanner can be thrown into the works on any project, and project managers make their name by solving these issues. The ability to solve problems effectively is very important because it enables the project manager to properly direct the team and remove potential obstacles to their performance.
Project managers exist to achieve the required deliverables by the scope of projects, so they should instinctively be results-driven. The most important thing for a project manager is to see a project through and deliver the required results. However, it is equally important for project managers not to be task-driven and obsessed with to-do lists, as this may never lead to the required results.
This is perhaps the most important quality of project managers. Their experience, knowledge and know-how has to be evident to the team for them to have any confidence in the project manager. However, it is not just a matter of confidence and trust, the project manager must actually know what they are doing, why, where, when and how.
There are a number of Project Management certifications that enable current and aspiring Project Managers to gain the relevant knowledge and skills required for effective project management. Project Managers need to be constantly refreshing their knowledge to ensure it is up-to-date and they remain knowledgeable.
Examples of popular project management certifications include: PRINCE2®, APM PFQ (Project Fundamentals Qualification), APM PMQ (Project Management Qualification), PMI CAPM® (Certified Associate in Project Management) and PMI PMP® (Project Management Professional).
Good project managers are not robots. Being empathetic, understanding and caring for the people in a team is a big part of motivating them. Often, it can be the case that some people in a team feel as though they are undervalued. Good project managers truly listen to their team members, are compassionate and if required take actions to change perceptions or provide the necessary support to individuals.
Competence in project management is a big word. Competent managers not just know what they are doing, but can effectively balance competing project constraints and skilfully manage any of the risks, issues and challenges that arise during the project lifecycle. Competent Project Managers never appear out of their depth or out of touch.
10. Calm under pressure
Project Management is often associated with high-pressure environments. Project Managers need to be able to stay calm under pressure and get through it. Many people panic in a high-pressure environment, but the best project managers thrive in them. They see through the pressure and deliver results by keeping calm.
Nobody is born an expert, though some people may demonstrate some or all of the above qualities and traits intuitively. You may develop these qualities by continuously learning and practising them. There are a number of resources available for studying them, however, practical application of the learning is your key to success.
PRINCE2® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved. | CAPM®, PMI® and PMP® are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. | APM is a trademark of the Association for Project Management.
While House of Fraser flirted with a total collapse, several town centres were preparing for large empty spaces to be left by the 169-year-old department store. House of Fraser took its website offline on Wednesday 15th August 2018 after their warehouse operator XPO Logistics stopped processing orders because they were owed £30million. This meant cancelling all online orders and refunding customers who were unsurprisingly left feeling less than satisfied; not a great time for them to be reversing sales.
But, how did that happen? How can powerful retail chains such as House of Fraser, Woolworths and BHS, who had built up stability and reputation for over a century, fall from such grace? Why couldn’t they move with the times?
By exploring several possibilities, we have identified three reasons for the near collapse of House of Fraser and extrapolated learning points for smaller retailers to ensure they too don’t fall foul of the same fate.
Why Did HoF Fail While Rivals Maintained Success?
There’s no doubt the department store model still works so why did House of Fraser fail to thrive? Richard Hyman, who has analysed the retail industry for 35 years, predicted a year in advance that 2018 would bring retail distress, particularly for companies that don’t understand their core customer. Could that be it?
Speaking of the HoF situation, he outlined the key sticking points for the department store were: lack of investment, declining relevance with shoppers, a lack of brand differentiation and a failure to focus on the store's core customer. By stocking a whopping 677 third-party brands, House of Fraser’s own identity became lost along with its relevance in the marketplace. Mr Hyman indicated that almost all of their successful multi-brand stockist competitors had, in addition to the external brands they carried, a strong private or own-brand label which he describes as ‘enormously valuable’ when it comes to differentiating a brand. He said, “House of Fraser doesn't have anything that nobody else has got,”; the first important takeaway for other retailers.
Furthermore, they faced fierce competition online where customers can find the same or similar items for a better price with other retailers. This is the second key insight for businesses to acknowledge.
The bottom line is retail brands need a dominating difference to thrive and safeguard their survival by ensuring that consumers come to them for their products first. In comparison, Amazon has become the biggest convenience store, Primark is a high street footfall magnet due to its low prices, John Lewis creates a trustful reputation through first-rate service, and Selfridges offers a unique shopping environment.
Aaron Shields is a strategy director at Fitch, a leading brand and retail consultancy. He commented on those stores saying, “Having a look at this list, it’s easy to see that Fraser’s house of brands approach needs a refreshed retail proposition to survive.”
At this point we would ask an independent retailer, what sets you apart? Do you carry lines that no-one else in your area does? If not, then do you have a price advantage? You must ensure that you provide your consumers with a reason to keep choosing you.
Fixing the Revolving C-Suite
Richard Lim, Chief Executive at consultancy firm Retail Economics, says most department stores are incredibly expensive to operate, especially so over the last few years due to rising business rates and rents, as well as the National Living Wage.
For House of Fraser, however, its main problems haven’t actually been attributed to staff pay but how several of their management, executive and senior marketing positions have changed, resulting in a lack of consistency for the brand. This is the third thing smaller retailers should be aware of.
Due to their leadership insecurity, House of Fraser’s sales productivity was weak. Management were focused on a settling their core team at a time when their core team should have been addressing issues 1 and 2.
While independent retailers may not have to grapple with a board of executives and multiple department heads, their core team is just as important. Building trust around a brand and relationships with customers often relies on patrons making regular contact with the same employees.
Time spent curating the right team will pay dividends in the long term as, for independent retailers, too much hiring and firing could be of detriment to sales. It’s not best use of the owner’s time and could damage the long-term brand message which would be inconsistent under a number of consecutive staffs.
Other Solutions for Small Retailers
We know that to survive in a difficult and overcrowded market, retailers need to build their brand by understanding exactly who their customer is and enhance that relationship but there are other ways to work smart and aid your cash flow while you are establishing those things.
Small retailers can struggle with recording a high volume of transactions in real time and that can cause an admin headache with a ripple effect but nowadays there are solutions available to relieve owners of unnecessary data entry. However, organised figures are more than just business eutopia.
If a retail business is struggling financially, up to date figures and organised admin will alleviate the burden accompanied with turning the business around. Being organised and efficient with general administration while armed with financial foresight will mean the business can easily apply for financial assistance which could prevent it struggling into a place of no return.
With up-to-date figures, a business consultant can make recommendations to owners and advise on any planned investment or expansion. In particular, they can focus on whether the business can afford to make an expansion in the market or adopt another financial strategy.
Another piece of guidance that advisors might give to independent retailers is get rid of, or make better use of, unneeded basements and top floors to reduce the rents paid to landlords. Additionally, marketing plans and annual goals can help to keep an indy on track.
This article was written by Cottons Chartered Accountants London. With their base in Shoreditch Cottons specialise in working with independent brands and retailers installing admin solutions to cut back on bookkeeping time and, by preparing useful end of year and management accounts.