There are lots of different types of project managers in the world and they all approach their jobs in a different way. I have worked with a wide variety of different sorts of people in this role and feel that there is no classic project manager stereotype which I could try and shoehorn them all into.
However, they also tend to have some very clearly defined characteristics in common, and by looking at the most importance of these it is clear that you need certain qualities to survive and prosper in this job.
1. A Good Sense of Organization
Not every project is going to involve a busload of team members and an eye-watering budget. The same sorts of rules can be applied to every project though, and if you can run a small project in an organized manner, than a big one shouldn’t be a problem either. Personally I like to take advantage of the free time which is often available at the start of a project to get all of the templates set up, system folders organized and team members working together. There will always be really hectic moments and not so busy times in any sort of project and an excellent project manager knows how to deal with both of these situations without losing focus.
2. Knows How to Get People Motivated
This is a really difficult skill or personality trait to define. I have seen project managers who love to have a joke with their team and others who measure every word carefully to ensure the maximum effect. I guess that it comes down to two things in the end; the manager’s own personality and the makeup of the team. As every project team is different you can’t just use exactly the same approach each time. Sometimes you might want to give people more responsibility while other times you will want to reward their hard work or really stretch them to get the best results.
3. Knows How to Communicate
This perhaps overlaps a little with the last point but it won’t always be your own team you are speaking to. As a project manager you need to be able to explain your needs and your decisions to a wide variety of stakeholders. Depending upon the project in question this could mean switching between speaking to a highly technical stakeholder and someone who looks at things from a strictly business point of view. These people need a different approach and if you can communicate with both of them equally well you are on the way to a successful conclusion.
4. Can React to Changes
You could work for 50 years as a project manager and still not come across all of the different situations which this role is capable of throwing at you. It certainly isn’t the position for someone who wants an easy life of sitting in the same desk and doing the same things every single day until they reach retirement age. Projects are by their very nature fluid and unpredictable beasts. There is every chance that deadlines will be pushed forward, that milestones will be missed and that people will look to you for help and for answers. Being able to react in the right way and show everyone else that you are still in control is a tremendous attribute for any project manager. Even if deep down you are thinking, “How on Earth are we going to get out of this hole?” you should still show a positive image to the world and let everyone see that you aren’t flustered by any sudden changes to the plan.
5. Knows What to Do and What to Delegate
When there is a huge amount of work needing done in a limited amount of time it is important to be able to take a step back and let the rest of your team do their bit as well. Even if you are a perfectionist and know that you could do a better job than anyone else it simply isn’t possible to do everything alone. In fact, sometimes the best project workers are the worst managers, as they know how everything needs to be done and don’t want to risk letting someone else do a poor job of it. In the end this type of manager can find that their knowledge ends up doing more harm than good. You need to learn who in your team you can trust to get on with things while you stick to the task of running the whole show.