Selecting your lead project manager (or managers depending on the size of your project), is one of the most critical decisions you will make for your project.
But other than what can often seem like generic project management experience, and perhaps some industry, or technical-specific experience, what qualities separate the great project managers from the average? While you should always seek out a project manager who will fit well with your company’s culture, there a few qualities that any great project manager will bring to the table.
- The Adapter. I’d be willing to bet all the money in my wallet (which isn’t much these days because like a true millennial I never carry cash), that adaptability is the most critical quality for a project manager. Good project managers are constantly adapting – to new teams, new environments, new projects, new styles, etc. If a project manager can’t, or won’t adapt they won’t simply not add value to a project; they could be a serious risk to the project itself. Projects inevitably experience change: budget changes, scope changes, team changes, etc. By refusing to adapt to a changing landscape, your project manager is setting themselves and the team up for disaster.
- The Enforcer. Without getting too “tough times call for tough people,” most projects will encounter challenges that require someone to lay down the law and keep the project moving forward. Delays are a natural part of almost every project, but if no one is willing to eventually toughen up and get the project moving forward again, the project will derail. Your project manager needs to step up and keep your project team on track. This quality is also critical when conflict arises on a project. Conflict should be addressed as soon as it emerges to prevent the development of a larger risk to the project. Your project manager needs to be prepared to step in and address conflict before it has the opportunity to grow more heads.
- The Salesperson. Have you ever worked on a project where every single stakeholder was fully on-board from the start all the way through the finish? You have? Well, please write a book because we want to know your secrets! For the vast majority of us who have never experienced this holy grail of project management, you’ll be familiar with the need to “sell” the project at some point. A stakeholder might get cold feet. A budget holder might decide to decrease funding. Regardless of the cause, a project manager is likely to be instrumental in convincing the wavering party of the project’s worth. So, if they couldn’t sell a snow shovel to someone buried in their house, be aware that you may be missing a key skill set in your project manager.
- The Diplomat. Sometimes conflict resolution demands the attitude of an Enforcer (see #2). Sometimes, a more diplomatic approach needs to be taken. Your PM needs to be able to recognize whether the situation calls for the Enforcer, or the Diplomat, and, should the Diplomatic approach be needed, be able to bring a gentler touch to resolve the situation. We talked in this post about the importance of managing conflict in a project, and if your project manager brings too aggressive of an approach to resolution when it’s not needed, they run the risk of furthering the conflict.
- The Sympathetic Shoulder. Projects are often demanding and draining. If you’re an employee serving on the project team, you’re likely having to balance your day job with the additional project work. If you’re a consultant, you likely spend a great deal of time traveling back and forth and living out of your suitcase. Stress is bound to bubble up. Empathy will be a critical quality for your project manager to have when that stress does set in. Oftentimes, people just need to know their concerns are heard. So, if you’re chosen PM has the empathy of Paris Gellar from Gilmore Girls, consider the impact that will have on the team dynamic when stress manifests.
Looking for project managers that will bring all of the above positive qualities to the table? Check out some of our previous projects, and learn more about whether our approach might be right for your team.