Good project managers who lead their projects to success tend to have a few things in common. They deliver successful outcomes, keep their stakeholders happy and help deliver projects on time and on budget.
Evidently, training and experience influence how well members of the PMO perform. However, there are some habits that anyone can cultivate if they want to be a good project manager. Here are a few of our favourites.
How to be a Great Project Manager
Here are 12 essential skills every good project manager should have.
1) Be an Excellent Communicator
Communication is important whatever role you are in, but when managing a project, it is an absolutely essential skill to have. Good project managers communicate clearly and concisely to their team members so that each person understands what they have to do in their role in a project.
A good project manager will support the team and competently articulate their goals and visions for the project.
Project managers must also be able to communicate with members of the team they don’t necessarily click with, as well as talk to a range of people who all have different personality types. This can be a tricky task, but achieving this is key to being a great project manager.
Being a people person isn’t everybody’s forte, but it’s also not as hard as you think. Provided you are able to communicate well and be productive as part of a team, you don’t have to be everybody’s best friend.
2) Know How to Solve Problems
Every team tends to be a mishmash of personalities and working styles, and due to this, issues are inevitable. Whether it’s tasks not being completed at the expected rate, or delays in receiving crucial info, a project manager must be prepared.
But this doesn’t mean getting your hands dirty, it could simply be that two team members swap tasks in order to better take advantage of the working styles of each member.
No good project manager works alone. The greatest resource any manager has is the people around them. A good PM knows how to use the people at their disposal, and where the talents of each are better suited to help the project as a whole.
3) Practise Empathy
Though it may be a soft skill, empathy is an important practice in being a well-rounded project manager. When colleagues have a project manager they can trust, it makes a world of difference to the office environment.
Managing a team is just as much managing people as it is the delivery of a project, so a good project manager makes a conscious effort to understand the needs of their team.
Take the time to speak to your team and find out what makes them tick. Be approachable, and open to providing help to your team when it is needed. If you are an empathetic manager, your team will be more comfortable in their roles, which will in turn help improve performance.
However, there is a difference between being empathetic and being a pushover. Knowing how to set boundaries and maintain a professional relationship is key to developing a healthy manager-worker relationship.
4) Be Organised
Organisation is absolutely key when managing anything, especially large projects or programmes. An overwhelmed project manager is an ineffective project manager, and an ineffective project manager results in a poorly delivered project.
Organisation is the foundation of any good plan, and any good project manager will make an effort to develop their organisational skills.
Many people think that you’re either born organised, or you’re not. Everyone has that friend that is always on time, always well presented and never appears flustered, and assumes that this is part of who they are.
No matter how messy or bohemian your working styles are, anyone can develop good organisation skills with practice. Setting (and sticking to) deadlines, making daily checklists and delegating tasks among your time are all ways to get better at being organised.
Good project managers know how to utilise helpful organisational tools such as Gantt charts or Kanban boards, both of which are common methods of organisation projects in today’s fast-paced professional world.
5) Know How to Delegate Responsibility
Even though some think they are, no project manager is an island. We all need a little help every now and again, and there is no better way to help yourself than by delegating tasks to your team.
Being able to use the knowledge you have of your team’s abilities is essential to making sure you can pass tasks onto them when needed. This can help free up your workload and allow you to focus on big-picture issues.
Knowing which members of your team can best handle certain tasks is crucial for managing a team effectively. If a major milestone is coming up, and you have five separate tasks that need to be completed in unison, you need to know who to give them to.
As a project manager, it is your responsibility to know your team inside and out, and use their skills like a well-oiled machine in getting things done.
6) Practice Equality and Fairness
As a project manager, it falls to you to ensure that your team is managed fairly and with equality. Whether it be down to race, sex or anything else, you must work to avoid any mistreatment or bias towards anyone in your team.
While equality in the workplace is second nature to a lot of people, as a project manager, any breaches of these tenets within your team fall to you to resolve.
This can be achieved by being approachable and friendly to your team and providing an objective viewpoint on any inter-team member issues. If your team feels comfortable talking to you about any feelings of inequality, then your job in fixing the issues is made much easier.
Whether the issue is large or small, no matter which member of the team feels discriminated against, making your team feel happy and content in the workplace helps them work better together.
7) Be Accountable
When dealing with a project with many moving parts, not everything can go right all the time. As the project manager, it’s vital to accept your share of the responsibility for mistakes. Passing the book is a surefire way to lose the respect of both your team and your stakeholders.
With the successful delivery of the project as your key goal, PMs should know when to be selfless and take time to learn from their mistakes. Being accountable for mistakes sends a strong message to your team, and highlights how you are willing to put the needs of the project above your own need to save face.
Accountability is a trait highly regarded by stakeholders too. A project manager who stands up and shoulders the responsibility for an error will be held in much higher standing than one who passes the book. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s how we learn from them that counts.
8) Understand the Strategic Goals of the Project
Some project managers are so focused on the delivery of the project that they pay little attention to how it fits into the wider company strategy. A PM who understands how their role contributes to the broader goals of the organisation brings multiple benefits to the project.
Firstly, if you know how important your role as PM is, you’ll be twice as committed to delivering quality. You can also pass this commitment on to your team, helping them to understand how vital their day-to-day work is.
Additionally, if a project manager understands the role of the project for the wider business, they’ll be able to deliver a better outcome. For example, if you are aware of what will happen to the project after it is signed off, you can make preparations to ensure any post-delivery hurdles can be overcome once the project is out of your hands.
9) Be Logical & Objective
Having a logical head on your shoulders is absolutely essential to be a good project manager. Logical thinking not only helps solve problems within the project itself but also helps you to manage your team without bias or subjective opinions.
Many project managers learn to be logical from past experiences, which is why appraisals and assessments of certain situations are important. Hindsight can be annoying, but it can also help steer your brain in the right direction for the future.
One area where logical thinking is vital in project management is managing risks. A lot of project managers tend to ignore risks, talking themselves into the belief that their project’s risks will not happen.
Of course, we all want to believe that, but a project manager who thinks logically will always have a contingency plan in place if any of those risks become a reality.
10) Show Enthusiasm for the Project
A project manager who is bored with their project makes for a team who feels the same. If their project manager doesn’t show enthusiasm for a project, why should they? As the leader of this project, your influence might be bigger than you think.
The attitudes you show towards your workload will reflect on your team, and influence the way that they work. Your team will likely get a better read on you than you think, and even occasional expressions of boredom will rub off on them.
It helps to inject a bit of positivity and be able to rally others. Positivity is contagious, and instilling that into the working day (be it through meetings or just general conversation) is a great way of helping your team feel driven and motivated.
11) Stay Cool, Calm and Collected
Some people don’t mind being a big, bad, scary boss. But especially in today’s world, fear is rarely the best tactic in trying to motivate a team. A cool-headed project manager makes for an approachable, more likeable presence in the office, and someone that employees will want to work well for.
Alongside this, being calm and collected helps you to see your project clearly, and assess any given situation with clarity and objectivity. Someone who becomes stressed at every inconvenience is not someone who will reflect positivity in a workplace and not someone who will lead a team to the best of their ability.
Staying calm also reflects an atmosphere of positivity from your project, helps maintain good mental health and keeps those around you calm too.
12) Be Trustworthy
Perhaps one of the most important traits of a good manager is being trustworthy. Your team need to feel that they can come to you with their concerns and that you have their best interests at heart. If they don’t, then you’re just their boss.
The only way to guarantee the success of your project is by ensuring your employees are happy, engaged and on track. Without their trust or respect, you cannot manage your team effectively.
The trust of your team cannot be bought with quirks or false optimism, it can only be earned. By demonstrating all the qualities we have discussed in their article, your team will see your commitment and value as their leader. This is the only way to build genuine trust and respect, not through pretence or dominance.
Some of us find that being a good project manager comes naturally. All of these qualities line up without having to make any effort, and you are already on the way to becoming a great PM.
But for some of us, developing talent for these qualities takes a lot of hard work. Being a people person does not come naturally to everyone, and some of us are more prone to stress than others.
If you are one of these people, taking the time to develop these attributes will do wonders for your capabilities as a project manager.
Some of these skills will take more time to master than others. But making the effort now will help them become second nature to you. After all, skills like this take time to learn!