Top Five Qualities of a Great Project Manager
Project managers are found in all sectors, pharmaceuticals to oil drilling, local authorities to central government, charities to sports management. Projects can range from very complex and formal, multi million pound projects to small budget, informal projects. All project managers face challenges that require certain personal qualities. Because project managers must decide on and direct the activities of a number of other people, their role is both supportive and proactive. Here are the five most important qualities for a successful project manager:
Project managers must be able to coordinate plans, develop strategies, solve problems, and most importantly, deliver a finished product on time. Therefore, the best project managers are people who know how to take the information they’re given and fit it into the bigger picture of the project as a whole. Analytical thinkers know how to separate important information from the chaff, and they also apply deductive and inductive reasoning skills to navigate around impasses, all while keeping the project participants on task. Analytical thinking is essential for project managers, whose jobs are fast-paced and often involve unexpected events and issues.
Strong communication skills
Project managers don’t and can’t work alone: they’re in charge of communicating the state of the project, new developments, and new requirements to each member of the project team. In a sense, the project manager must be the project team’s communication hub: team members must naturally communicate with one another, but the project manager has to know what’s going on and be able to communicate it to everyone to avoid potentially costly misunderstandings. Project managers with strong communication skills are clear about what they expect from each member of the team, are communicative about flexibility (or inflexibility) of deadlines and project parameters, and must be approachable so that team members can let the manager know when they run into trouble. Moreover, project managers must often interact with clients, which leads us to the next quality…
Great negotiation skills
Project managers must often negotiate deadlines, changes, prices, resources, and other project factors with the customer commissioning the project. Taking their analytical skills, project managers know what really can and can’t be done, so they have to get what they need from the client to obtain elements required for the successful completion of the project. Negotiation skills require a great deal of subtlety (more of those communication skills!), determination, and willingness to compromise and think from the other person’s point of view. At the end of the day, negotiation must result in a workable solution. A tricky skill to master, but extremely valuable.
Flexibility, clarity and composure
Projects don’t ever go quite as planned, even if they’re planned very well. Project managers know this, and the most successful ones understand that they must be flexible about their plans, all the while maintaining an impeccable degree of clarity regarding what’s possible and what isn’t. Clarity and composure also apply to communicating with team members and with clients or upper management; when conditions are changing all the time, project managers have to be able to provide a sense of security to those who have a stake in the project, all the while communicating new and often unanticipated plan elements. Someone who is flexible about the project design but clear and reassuring with his colleagues and clients will be much more successful than a rigid, uncommunicative project manager.
Needless to say, a project manager has to be organized beyond reproach. Because the project manager makes decisions, pulls strings, and oversees progress on the project while keeping it moving, she must possess organizational skills far greater than those of any other member of the team. The project manager carries all the baskets and pulls all the strings, and to avoid mix ups, delays, and mistakes, must always keep a sweeping, fastidious eye on the project’s proceedings.
All in all, project managers need to be organized, clear, communicative, composed, analytical, and reliable. Project managers wear a lot of hats all at once, and only those with well-developed qualities like those above will be able to consistently deliver successful products and projects, on time and budget. Even when compromises must be made, great project managers make the result seem as shiny and exciting upon delivery as it appeared on paper.