As I started to contribute to this blog, one of the things that I wanted to talk about was what the qualities were which I think make a good (or bad) project manager. These are based on my own experience as well as what I have seen or learned from the project managers with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work. I think every project manager needs all of these traits in some combination, often strength in one can help compensate for weakness in another. As we improve at each though, we get better at our job over all.
- Communication – This doesn’t mean sending a lot of emails. Though sometimes, unfortunately, that’s necessary. It’s about communicating effectively. It is being able to ask the right questions and disseminate the answers in a way that makes sense to everyone. It means learning which client or team member just needs a quick note for follow-up and which needs a call or an in person meeting to leave feeling comfortable. Sometimes it’s knowing how to communicate bad news or tell someone no, in a way that won’t leave them more upset.
- Organization – This trait is two-fold. At the most basic level it means making a list. Everyone can do this, though you’d be surprised at how few people actually do. Being aware of all the things that need to happen within a project from start to finish. At another level it also involves time management. Figuring out how to most effectively use your own time and organize the time of the team. Both aspects are important but if a project manager can’t bring the two skills together they’ll always end up unorganized. Making a list that doesn’t consider effort or the order in which things need to happen or considering how much effort is needed and by whom are both recipes for disaster.
- Multitasking – This is a must and at least for me was probably the hardest to learn when I was just beginning my career. Even a project manager who is lucky enough to only be working on a single project has to be able to focus on more than one thing at once, or be able to follow-up on something with the project team at the same time they consider how to respond to a client. When more projects come into play the need to do this well grows exponentially. When everyone is relying on you to keep a project on track and on schedule the easiest way for things to go bad is to let more and more items slowly fall behind.
So those are the three qualities that I think every project manager should have. There are others but I think these are the ones that, regardless of the type or size of a project, will end up defining a PM’s performance. In the future I will write some more about each one in greater detail. I will talk about times when I utilized them to get something right and, probably more entertainingly, times when I got something wrong.