What Makes Great Project Managers?
By Jan Richards
What do great project managers do that other people don’t?
That was one of the questions I asked a community of consulting peers recently. I also wanted to know:
- Can great project management skills be taught, or are they just natural for some people (i.e., “you have to be born that way”)?
- If project management excellence can be taught, how do you think these skills can be learned and developed most easily?
In their view, great project managers:
- See the Big Picture, and shift easily between the overall view and detail of the project
- Have strong people skills and emotional intelligence
- Build consensus and deal well with all members of the team, including the most challenging ones
- Set up a project well, such as by creating and communicating clear expectations, articulating why the project is important to customers of the work and to the business, and breaking big projects into do-able, assignable tasks
- Ask people to make commitments to achieve team and individual goals, and then follow up well to ensure that commitments made are commitments kept
- Align disparate people and resources to meet business objectives on time and within budget
- Synthesize multiple streams and sources of information well
- Are knowledgeable about the content and type of project they’re managing
- Are process-oriented, and manage the project with an eye to using a good process
- Have good problem-solving skills
- Are observant, adaptable, and juggle well
Here are a few of their specific thoughts about project managers who excel:
“If you can’t ’see’ the whole project form the beginning…it becomes just a series of tactics. Project management, when delivered most effectively, is strategic,” one writer explained.
“A good project manager takes the ‘angst’ out of the process, calms down the players, steps in and lets them make their own contributions without worrying about how it is all going to fit together,” said one contributor.
“They have “grace under fire,” explained another.
“They’re committed to the success of the project as well as the people involved. They develop strong and effective relationships with people - not just the project plan and milestones.”
Answers varied when it came to my question about whether great project managers are born or made.
One person was certain that all project management skills can be taught and learned.
A more typical response, however, was the belief that some great project management skills can be taught, while perhaps 25% of great project managers’ abilities are innate.
What’s the best way to develop strong project management skills?
Most of the consultants who replied to my inquiry suggested a combination of learning on one’s own - such as by reading or taking classes - supplemented by coaching or mentoring to fully reinforce the learning, in practice.
Jan Richards helps businesses turn their business goals into great results. She invites you to get a copy of the free report, “Leading Teams Successfully Through Uncertain Times” available at http://www.jgrichardsresults.com from Jan Richards, J.G. Richards Consulting - Turning Business Goals Into Great Results.