4 Tips for Program Managers

Public sector program managers are tasked with overseeing various projects within their team, agency and department. While many government program managers excel in their field, it can be overwhelming to balance everything that is going on at work. Fortunately, this week’s NextGen Leadership post brings you four ways you can hone your craft.

  1. Prioritize. It can be hard to balance changing priorities in a project and to understand which elements are urgent and what’s important. While these two priorities may converge at times, it is critical to have a good grasp on what needs to get done quickly and what you can spend a little more time on to make even better. Take a step back and prioritize the elements of a project instead of falling into a reactionary mindset that often leads to scattered and inefficient behaviors.
  1. Acquire the right talent. This is something that you may or may not have control over. Regardless, you should look for leadership skills over technical project management skills when building your team because the latter can be taught. Whether it is for you or members of your team, it can be useful to check out formal program management courses or books like one’s offered at the Project Management Institute and The Handbook of Program Management. Even if your team doesn’t have program management skills, you can help them develop in that area. This may mean more work for you at first, but ultimately it allows your team to work more effectively and efficiently with less input from you.
  1. Over communicate. Whether it is a weekly check in with your team or using a management platform to keep everyone on track, communicating early, often and throughout the project is key to being a successful program manager. Additionally, communicating challenges openly and working with your team to design solutions to those challenges promotes transparency and inclusion among team members. As the leader, focus on getting things right rather than being right, and you will easily develop a high performing project team.
  1. Get innovative. While government is increasingly breaking out of siloes and using collaboration, you should be extra diligent to resist the tendency to be siloed. Instead, promote a culture of learning, innovation and collaboration across your team. Just because one program manager has done something one way for the past years that doesn’t mean you have to accept the business-as-usual mindset. Don’t be afraid to try new things and to encourage your team to share innovative ideas.

Want a bonus tip? Follow the example of a respected program manager. Emulate their soft skills, such as negotiation and team development and learn the hard skills. Fortunately, you have a mentor that can help foster these skills. Even if your mentor isn’t a program manager, these skills are not exclusive to the role. Take this opportunity to pick their brain about the soft and hard skills that program managers need.

Got some tips for program managers that we didn’t mention? Throw them in the comments! Additionally, for more information on all things professional development, check out all of the NextGen Leadership program’s blogs here.

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