The Four Characteristics of a Great Project Manager

Why Project Managers Are Great Assets

Put simply, project managers have the ability to make good ideas happen. When executives are too busy thinking of all the intricacies that go into seeing a project from start to finish, project managers swoop in to make it work—they’re action-oriented, quick decision-makers that dive head-first into a project without stopping to look back.

But of course, being a good project manager is much easier said than done. The set of skills required to be a great project manager doesn’t only mean finding the right practice or methodology for a project, but it’s also adopting a forward-thinking mindset.

If you’re a project manager yourself and have stopped to think, “Do I really have what it takes?” then here are the four characteristics of an effective project manager for you to keep in mind before embarking on a new project.

The Four Traits That Make a Great Project Manager

#1 They’re effective communicators

Poor communication has some of the most damaging consequences where businesses are concerned. What makes it so costly is how gradually and slowly it starts eating away at your business structure until it’s too late. And just as it is capable of destroying a whole business, it’s also capable of making a project fail, which is why communication is such an important skill for a project manager to have.

That doesn’t necessarily mean being a great speaker, writer, or presenter—it means knowing how to convey information in a clear and understandable way to the client or contractor, board of directors, and team members. Keep leaders and contractors in the loop when it comes to project progress. When it comes to team building, they know how to clearly and transparently explain goals, strategies, and ideas to their team, which in turn helps team members to become more collaborative and open to sharing ideas.

And when it comes to contractors, great project managers don’t only tell their contractors what they want to hear. They keep them informed of the progress the project is making, whether bad or good, and make sure they’re kept in the loop throughout the whole process. And only inform them when a decision is taken.

Great project managers take their relationships seriously. They work hard on building excellent relationships with their contractor, team, and stakeholders—they’re transparent, they’re honest, and make sure that their relationships are based on mutual trust and understanding.

#2 They’re owners

Having an “owner” mindset is a skill anybody working at an organization, from CEO to intern, should cultivate and nurture. And great project managers not only understand this, but have internalized it so much that being an owner becomes who they are.

Project managers are risk-takers, but great project managers also understand what taking risks entails—issues may arise, deadlines might be missed, and project progress could go south. Great project managers know this, accept this as part of the job, and take full responsibility for these problems when they happen. They own both their decision to take that risk and also whatever problems that may follow. They don’t wait for solutions to be given to them—they’re action-oriented, remember?—they go out and find the solution themselves. They hold themselves accountable for the issues, complexities, delays, and other project mishaps that may happen. They own the risks they take because they know they, alone, are the ones responsible for whatever comes next.

With that being said, great project managers don’t mind being in the gray area. They embrace ambiguity and understand that no decision will ever yield perfect outcomes, that there will be a set of issues, and when these issues do happen, they’ll find a way around it.

#3 They want their clients to succeed

A lot of the times, project managers believe that their main job is to successfully deliver a project, but they forget the fundamental reason why this project was executed in the first place, the contractor or client wants to succeed in their business. And it’s because of this that your main goal should be to ensure your client’s success and helping them do so by running this project successfully.

This report issued by the team at Mckinsey highlights how important it is to treat your client as a business partner, and not just your contractor. Prioritizing the project’s success and focusing too much on processes may lead to neglecting the other, important aspect of running a project, which is maintaining a proper professional relationship with your client. When your client is satisfied, you have a higher chance of getting the results they want.

When a problem arises, it shouldn’t become a game of “who’s fault was that?” that ends up with you, the project manager, blaming the contractor. Whatever the issue is, a great project manager’s goal is always to make sure they’re on track to completing the project successfully and helping their contractor get the results they’re hoping to generate from the project.

#4 they’re calculating

There’s a lot at stake when running a project, which is why project managers understand what’s worth their attention and what isn’t. Their actions, while quick, are based on something more valuable than “choosing the right methodology” or “doing it the way it’s always been done”; their actions are based on intuition, their client’s desired outcome, protect goals, and their own judgment that they’ve built with experience.

Some of these actions mostly revolve around risk-management, assembling the right team, incentive alignment, and maintaining relationships, because great project managers are strategic. They know what is worth pursuing and what isn’t. They don’t fixate on the processes and blindly follow traditional ways of running projects. They care more about setting the right milestones that align with the project’s main goal, whether that’s timely delivery or sticking to the budget. They take risks, make quick, well-informed decisions, they make sure they, their contractor, and their team are on the same page, and lastly, they make sure the team members assigned to the project have shared values and have the skills and mindset necessary to help run the project successfully.

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