People Management: The Real Estate Project Team

Independent project managers and owner’s representatives manage much more than the real estate process; they manage people. Which means an effective project manager must possess both real estate / construction knowledge and expertise in diplomacy, communication and leadership.

Throughout an entire real estate project, project managers must manage not only the external team of architects, construction managers, general contractors, AV providers, furniture vendors, specialty consultants, etc., but also the internal team of owners, board members, and the client’s designated internal staff. Management of such a complex team is never an easy task. But a good project manager will do so by setting expectations for all internal project team members and holding all of them accountable for their designated roles and assigned tasks through effective use of leadership skills.

Clarifying expectations up front during a real estate project ensures that all project team members’ goals and anticipated outcomes are on the same page. Key early steps in expectation-setting are: (1) establishing a level of involvement from key stakeholders, (2) defining each member’s decision-making abilities, (3) designating lines of communication among particular members, and (4) delegating each member’s specific responsibilities. In addition, defining a project budget, a completion date, and what a “successful project” will be will ensure that all internal project team members share a common vision and goal.

With expectations already set, a project manager must now hold the internal team accountable for key deadlines and established milestones. These milestones should be specified and detailed in the team’s project schedule so they do not come as a surprise later on. If properly prepared, a milestone or key decision should be accomplished efficiently. However, if expectations are not properly set and an internal project team or client is not held accountable and/or cannot make decisions in time for significant milestones, this can derail an entire real estate project.

To prevent this, an experienced project manager will lead the project team every step of the way. A project manager does this by inspiring others to work to their full ability, providing clear expectations, and creating an environment that enables creative team building. The project manager should also ensure that the client/owner has all necessary tools, data and resources to make educated decisions. Furthermore, project managers will harness their construction / real estate project knowledge to counsel the end user on cost-effective strategies and creative solutions to problems that arise on site, and to share what they have observed to be successful in other projects they have managed.

Most of all, a project manager must lead the project team and help them make sound decisions in times of pressure, distress or uncertainly due to such uncontrollable forces or obstacles as weather conditions, economic chaos, and labor shortages. The project manager must rise to these challenges and direct the internal project team to stay focused on the original expectations—as a team.

It is vital to your real estate project’s success to hire an experienced 3rd party project manager who is not merely well versed in construction/real estate projects but also well prepared to manage, lead, communicate, delegate, and inspire. With the ability to set expectations, hold the internal team accountable and lead the project to successful completion, an experienced project manager will ensure your project the highest rate of success as well as the least amount of costly and timely mistakes.

Stephen Fean
Stephen Fean is the Vice President of Business Development at Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers, a real-estate consulting firm that provides owner’s representation and project management services. More about Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers as well as additional blog posts can be found here.
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