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August 26, 2021

Project Manager or Babysitter? Part One

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At The Sky Floor, we partner with multiple agencies in addition to our direct clients. Our client is the agency in these partnerships, and we complete website/digital work for their clients. Sometimes we interact directly with the client on behalf of the agency; other times, we are the hidden, mysterious Oz-like team behind the curtain pulling the ropes.

No matter which scenario plays out, there is one truism, multi-person agencies have project managers to interface between the client and the rest of the team. Working with various PMs over the years has produced an unspoken scorecard of what makes an excellent project manager vs. a mediocre or even detrimental one. 

A Project Manager at Their Worst

Project managers are at their worst when they act like babysitters – constantly checking in but never offering any helpful information, feedback, or guidance. When this occurs, the rest of the team gets frustrated and comes to loathe the project. Disdain within your team is not desirable for the client or the quality of the work. 

We have seen it all. 

Another common foible of a sub-par PM is not remembering any notes from a meeting – one of the manager’s primary jobs. I can’t tell you how many times over the years we reconvene a week after a meeting, and a project manager asks us what the client said! The idea behind having a project manager is to smooth out the communication and bring efficiency to keeping the plates spinning. When they don’t do that, it is worse than not having one at all because other team members will be relying on that level of support. 

Here are some other signs of less than great project managers:

  • 20th website launch, but can’t remember what info we need from the client
  • Doesn’t communicate critical deadlines until they are a day away 
  • Constantly checks in on a task on the day before it’s promised – that is go time on the production side, and it can be overwhelming to have to break to answer questions.
  • No work/life balance, so everyone on the team gets after-hours requests

Some of these problems aren’t the project manager’s fault – they are systemic cultures bred by leadership that never forged a better path. But they can still add up to frustration and lack of quality work from the entire team. 

Tomorrow we look at what makes a successful PM. Hint: It isn’t just keeping the project moving on schedule. 

More to explore

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