Neil Smith

In the Project Management discipline at some point in your career you will be expected to manage project managers, e.g. as a Program, Portfolio or Line Manager. Managing people effectively can be a difficult skill to master, and can easily leave you feeling like an imposter and thus get sucked back down into the detail.

It should be no different from all forms of people management, but it is, especially when stepping up to manage your ex-peers/friends adding an extra challenge of navigating a change in your working relationship.

Luckily Project Managers already possess the necessary skills to effectively manage in their Project Management toolbox. In this blog, I will discuss what I believe are the top 8 key skills that you will need to tap into when managing project management professionals.



It is important to define a structure with your team. This will bring clarity for both parties involved. Outline a framework for your week on how and when you would like to meet, send/receive information.

It is important to understand that all Project Managers are humans after all and have different needs and wants, so it is key that you define your own flexible framework to cater for diversity of thought and practice. Managing people is never straightforward, make sure to celebrate diversity and don’t always think you have to know the solution.



Agree a common vision. All goals and tasks should be aligned with team members and the overall goals of the business. A common vision with agreed common goals will lead to aligned and improved performance.



Agree NO Surprises, this will vary with each PM but again there will need to be an agreed framework and it must be agreed that communications are two-way, open and honest. Senior PMs, for example, need guidance and support/assurance, not control and command. This is very relevant the more we work remotely.



Working as a project manager, can be silo’d at times. As a manager, it is important to be mindful of this, and focus on building a support network for your team. Building a peer network among the team members can result in a host of benefits for your team members.

  • Learning off each other
  • Doing Peer reviews
  • Identifying and Solving problems themselves through team collaboration



It is extremely important to be genuine to yourself and to your teams, they need to see that you have their back when needed. This can be accomplished in many ways, sometimes it’s digging in at a particularly busy time or covering for someone in an emergency. I think the phrase “practice what you preach” is very relevant.



Be prepared to get your hands dirty as mentioned above, a very common mistake of new managers is to go back to what they know best and get sucked into the detail. This must be avoided at all costs and involves managing upwards, i.e. your Manager must understand that you cannot get sucked back into the detail. A Manager that is coaching/empowering creates a much more productive team ethos.



Focus on empowering your team. A Project Manager must feel empowered, this is key to getting the best out of people. People who feel empowered in their jobs make better decisions and produce higher quality outputs.



Create an environment that fosters feedback loops, most Project Managers are used to giving and receiving feedback so build this into your teams. This will create a way for you to learn and grow into your role, use regular formal/informal 1:1’s, team meetings to allow a platform for this to thrive.

Above are 8 of the top key skills that will help shape the transition for people moving from Managing projects to managing people. I’ll be back in a few weeks with my next blog, but until then if you have any questions or would like further advice on people management feel free to reach out to me at – I’d be delighted to help.