4 things a project manager should never do in a meeting

While many project managers excel in meetings, others struggle to find their footing as responsible leaders. Here are four common pitfalls.


Putting down the ideas of others, or other people themselves

Yes, as a project professional, a PM may come to the table with a wealth of knowledge and experience as a leader, but it’s necessary for a PM to understand his or her role as a facilitator and someone who guides a team toward project success. Project managers should always strive to remain aware that team members and stakeholders also bring valuable knowledge and experience that can be useful, even when it differs from any leader’s viewpoint. Trust is based on respect and fairness, and putting down differing opinions breaks that trust.

A project manager should never presume to know more than anyone else in the room; this can lead to a reputation as a know-it-all, and will result in team members who avoid sharing ideas or opposing opinions.

Taking this one step further, it’s never acceptable to put down other individuals, whether in private meetings or in front of others – especially in front of others, no matter what the reason.


Texting, playing with phones, or not paying attention

No matter how discreet a project manager believes him or herself to be, meeting participants will undoubtedly notice a lack of focus or attention by a project manager during meetings. If this happens, it (rightfully) creates the impression that the PM is disinterested in the contributions of others.

The other risk to playing with phones and/or texting is the likelihood that a project manager will actually miss out on important details needed to successfully manage project activities. Project meetings are crucial times to work through issues and information. Regardless of whether the distractions are personal or business, focus during a meeting shouldn’t be optional. Unless it’s an emergency, keep phones on silent until after the meeting is done.


Gossiping or talking about confidential items

No matter how tempting it may be, a PM should always refrain from taking part in any gossip or discussing items of a confidential nature. It’s equally important to ensure meeting participants stay on track and leave gossip for their lunch hour or personal time. Most meetings should typically last no more than 50 minutes, and this leaves no room or time to discuss trivial matters that serve no real purpose.

If confidential matters do surface, it’s the project manager’s responsibility to voice that this is not appropriate and help steer the meeting participants back on track. Project managers that indulge in gossip or inappropriate confidential discussions put themselves at current and future risk. Stakeholders, team members, future employers or clients are unlikely to rehire the PM due to this inability to practice good judgment.


Belaboring points and ignoring the clock

Everyone’s time should be respected; a project manager should avoid belaboring points unnecessarily, getting off-topic and running meetings over the scheduled time. On the surface this seems as though it may not be a big deal, but people tend to see this as a lack of focus, or at the very least, a lack of respect for each team members’ busy schedule. There simply aren’t enough hours in a day to get work done when meetings are extended. Project managers need to come prepared to meetings, assign timekeepers and stick to the allotted time is much as possible.

A project leader isn’t just responsible for keeping a project on track and activities in focus; they’re also responsible for keeping themselves in check when it comes to their professional behavior during meetings. If unsure, a PM can solicit feedback from former project team members to help determine whether their meeting conduct is up to par.

Post by Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder & President of Lead-Her-Ship Group and a Co-founder and Director, Information Systems & Technology Advisory at Conture Business Advisors, PS. She's also a project management and IT freelance columnist for various publications and a contributor for the Price of Business Talk Radio 1110 KTEK (Home of Bloomberg Radio), Houston, TX. She has 20+ years in business, (IS&T) and project management for small to large businesses in the U.S. and Canada. To find out more about Moira, go to www.leadhershipgroup.biz and www.contureadvisors.com.