Project Management or People Management?
How to manage people for better team chemistry? Written by Ben Kuo, Project Manager at Cloud Interactive
Apr 20,2021

When people see the term PM, they typically think of Project Manager or Product Manager. Although both are correct, PM for me is more of a People Manager. No matter what kind of projects you are managing, the people factor is usually the most important one that the PM needs to handle. If the PM has a few tricks in his pocket for managing the client and the team, it will make the project a lot smoother. In this article, I will share some skills I tested overtime and lessons I’ve learnt at Cloud Interactive on how to build a good project team chemistry to manage people better.  


Having worked on projects for different companies around the world ranging from multinational corporations to up-and-rising startups. I’ve learnt that the below 4 skills are what makes a good Project Manager become a good People Manager.

1. Be a good listener

Often in time people think being a good listener just means letting other people speak without interrupting. But a good listener usually tries to elicit more information by asking the right questions. And how do you know you are asking the right questions? It’s when the other person is talking more than you and you can tell from their facial expression that they are not annoyed or tired. 

When you are listening to other people, your brain needs to process simultaneously on what questions you should ask next. This will not only help you elicit more information, but also let the other person think that they are not wasting their time talking to you. Being a good listener means you can understand people’s needs and problems, and a PM should always understand every single stakeholder’s needs and problems within every project. If people think you understand them, then they will be willing to share more information with you and ultimately over time when you need their assistance, they will be more willing to help you in return.


2. Be Empathetic

A PM is a leader within a project team, and a good leader will have empathy for his team and not just bossing people around on what to do. Therefore, the PM should know what difficulties each project member faces and is willing to find solutions with them together to solve the problem. Remember, do not let the team feel like they are facing problems by themself, make them know that you guys work together as a team, and no matter what happens, you and the team are in this together.

Now, how to be more empathetic? You need to be a good listener first to understand people’s needs and problems, then relate to yourself about the similar situations you faced before. When people know that you were also in the same shoe as they are, they will have a special connection with you. On top of knowing their problems, you also need to think “What can I do to help them?”, “Perhaps I can adjust some priorities or allocate more resources for temporary support?” Discuss with the other person about this so they know you are doing your best to help them.


3. Give a Good Compliment

It is human nature to desire compliments, and often in time giving the right compliment at the right time will encourage people to perform better. A PM should make smart compliments to different stakeholders when the time is right. What do I mean by smart compliments at the right time? You don’t want to give compliments too often because it will mean less to people over time. On top of that, try to compliment people in front of other people as this will boost their confidence as well. A complement is not just merely a “Good Job” or “Well Done”, it is better if you can give more details like “Good Job, your suggestion to this feature will really enhance the overall performance of the system.”

A PM should not only give compliments to the team, but also to the client as well, and even better, compliment them in front of their manager. This will strengthen your relationship with the client and make them more willing to help you on issues you face in the project.


4. Be Transparent

Last but not least, a PM should be as transparent as possible to the team on the information that you are allowed to share. The first 3 skills were about how to understand other people better, but this last one will make people understand your job better. As a PM, you have pressures and responsibilities that not all the team members know about, and it is important to communicate them to your team so they can understand the difficulties you are facing. Now if you execute the first 3 skills well, people will feel like you understand them and they will also be more willing to understand you.

No one in the team should face problems by themselves, including the PM. Thus, it is important for all team members to be transparent on the issues we faced so we can try to solve it together. A PM should be responsible for building a sharing culture in the team which people can feel comfortable sharing about their own feelings and issues. 

These 4 skills above will take a long time to practice and master, but don’t give up and keep trying as this will for sure give a fruitful outcome. Every single PM will have their own version on how to execute the 4 skills themself, but if you can stick to these principles, you will find your life easier when managing projects. I guarantee that these 4 skills will help you improve the team chemistry overtime.

Cloud Interactive has years of experience in handling data science projects. Contact us now so that we can help!


About Cloud Interactive

Cloud Interactive is an AI, Software Engineering, and Design consulting company founded in 2010.


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