Project management might seem like a simple job, but can be incredibly layered with complexities. Yes, project managers are most commonly responsible for day-to-day communications, project logistics, meetings and more. But in a broader sense, they’re responsible for the overall success of the projects they manage.
Great project managers understand that their job – at a high level – is to empower a team to do great work without obstacles and to ensure that team enjoys and is fulfilled by the work they’re doing. That means doing project management well is mostly about honing soft skills. Here are six characteristics that only the most experienced project managers have perfected.
1. They’re Great Planners, But Are Also Flexible
Project management isn’t just about creating a plan and sending your team into the wild. While the bulk of a project manager’s job takes place during the initial planning stages, it doesn’t end there. As a project grows, things will change: you’ll discover unanticipated problems, timelines will be reworked, or resources will be moved around. A great project manager expects this and takes it in stride, adjusting to meet the needs of a project as it changes.
2. They Have (and listen to) Intuition
While each project will grow and change over time, that doesn’t mean all of those changes should be a surprise. A great project manager will have honed his or her gut intuition to know when something isn’t right, and dig deeper. This could take many forms: a key stakeholder isn’t as engaged in project meetings, a client isn’t giving any critical feedback, or a developer isn’t performing at their normal productivity level. A great project manager picks up on these intangible cues and addresses them to prevent major project issues down the road.
3. They Prioritize the Team, Not Themselves
Project management is by nature a leadership role, but it doesn’t mean project managers are the only decision makers. Quite the opposite; a great project manager will collect information and disseminate it to their project team, gathering input from all relevant parties before making a decision. They respect the people who are completing the work – designers, developers, etc. – enough to consult them before making decisions about their process.
4. They’re Upfront in Critical Moments
Every project has its problems, and most of them don’t go according to the original plan that was set forth. And that’s okay, because as a project grows, the team will learn new things and adjust as needed. But sometimes that comes with difficult conversations and critical decisions that need to be made quickly.
A great project manager knows when it’s time to make an important decision, and doesn’t beat around the bush about it. He or she is straightforward in their communication, clear about the issue at hand, and creates an environment where all decision makers on a project understand what’s at stake and can align with the next steps.
5. They’re great at Building Personal Relationships
While being straightforward in some situations is important, a great project manager isn’t all work and no play. They take the time to truly get to know their team members, in and out of work. By knowing each team member’s personal work style, a project manager can work best in every one-on-one relationship. On the other hand, by knowing each team member personally, a project manager also builds strong, dimensional relationships that create trust – which is critical when it comes time to be upfront and make project-altering decisions.
6. They Actually ‘Do’ Instead of Just Delegate
Maintaining a practice of collaboration instead of delegation allows you as a project manager to add value and contribute to the project at hand in place of micromanaging with ‘check ins.’ The best project managers add value and contribute to the project at hand; it’s what separates them from simply being a personified list of tasks.
If you’re a project manager and you’re working to improve your performance, consider taking a look at how you’re performing in these areas. If you can improve each of these skills, your project team and the work you do together will be better for it!