What It Means to Be a Human-Centered Project Manager

At Nebo, we often say that attention is one of our scarcest resources. As a human-centered marketing agency, we understand that people are inundated with messaging and ads everywhere they turn. We have to think about the person behind the click or view and make sure we are creating marketing campaigns and digital experiences that genuinely add value to their lives.

In addition to attention, there is another resource we fight against, both in our professional and personal lives.

That scarce resource is time.

As I get older, the days, months, and years just seem to go faster. We live in a world where we are connected all of the time, making it feel as if we’re always on. That we’re always doing something. This year has been particularly challenging. In a world dealing with the effects of COVID-19, everything feels more uncertain and hectic than before.

Additionally, in the marketing world, the number of tools, platforms and technologies available at our fingertips is more comprehensive than ever. At times, it can feel overwhelming. How do we get everything done on our ever-growing to-do list?

When I talk to our clients, I realize how great they are at their jobs. They know their industry and business like the back of their hands, and we collaborate to make sure the work we do together is phenomenal. The one common thread I see with all of our clients, regardless of vertical or organizational structure, is that they are insanely busy. Working with Nebo is only a small part of their job responsibilities. With the economic uncertainties the world is facing, our clients are feeling the pressure from many different angles, and it can be relentless.

For this reason, the role of a project manager is so important. At Nebo, our project managers wear many essential hats. We are responsible for keeping projects on track. Communication, organization, initiative and follow-through are all core tenets of project management at Nebo. But it doesn’t stop there. Nebo’s project managers are special because we care about our clients, and we care about them a lot. We not only want the best work and best outcome for them, but we also want to make their professional lives as easy as possible. 

Many agencies have very rigid systems and processes that don’t always fit well into their clients’ workflow. There is often an account structure that includes an account executive paired with a project manager. The account executive is responsible for maintaining the relationship, overseeing the strategy, but also growing their accounts. At Nebo, we purposefully have taken a human-centered approach, and none of our project managers are tasked with selling to our clients. We care about doing the best work and looking out for our clients’ best interests. 

Additionally, we have policies in place, but we still allow our teams to be flexible to accommodate our clients as often as we can. Whether it’s the timing of status meetings, flow of deliverables, or format of feedback, we will work with them. As the relationship continues to grow, we will also suggest changes on both sides that can make it easier for our clients to work with us.

We are always thinking through our clients’ overarching strategy, KPIs and goals. As we work to move the project along, this is still top of mind, and we help the team stay focused on both the small details and the big picture.

We show we care by asking our clients about what else is going on in their professional world. For example, if one of our clients has a week with limited availability, we will help by re-prioritizing or shifting meetings to accommodate their schedule. It’s essential to find areas where we can help alleviate those tough weeks we all have.

We keep projects on track by meeting our deadlines, but we also help our clients stay on task. We’ll keep them abreast of deadlines, and even add reminders to their calendar if it helps them. We do what it takes to help them stay on schedule, as we understand the volume of messages, emails, work and requests that are thrown their way.

Working with an agency can feel like a job within itself, but we try to make the work as enjoyable and easy as possible. When we hear that one of our clients has good news, we celebrate with them, and when they have challenging news, we work to help where we can.

I’m proud of our project managers and the care by which they hold their projects and their clients. The hurried pace of life as we know it will not be slowing down any time soon. 

In a world where we are all struggling to fit one more thing into our day, it’s important that project managers are on their clients’ team.

Written by Sarah Christiansen on May 21, 2020


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Written by
Sarah Christiansen
Senior Vice President, Client Experience