What I want to consider here are what characteristics make up the top performing project managers. As you read, please be thinking about what you consider the best of the best PMs consistently bring to the table. What sets them apart from the less successful PMs?
An organized thinker and doer. The best project managers are organized doers. Period. Why put off to tomorrow what you can get done today? The top project managers want to progress with each action – move forward, not sideways. They have a plan, and they want to follow it. They want to bring others – like the team – along for the ride so they will be organized thinkers and doers in how they conduct themselves when meeting with others and leading others. All of this is just plain good practice for the project and for the project client you are working with. It’s logical, yes, but many get bogged down with so much work on their plate that at some point in the day they are ready to procrastinate. It’s best to avoid that because the work just keeps building up…and the top project managers don’t want that to happen.
A skillful negotiator. In the project management world, PMs often have to negotiate dates, resources, changes, dollars and other items on projects with anyone from the customer to their own team members to members of their own executive management teams within the organization. Sometimes we’re negotiating and we don’t even realize it. We must be skilled negotiators who are looking to better their position to successfully deliver on the project at every corner. Negotiation is just part of the game. Learn that game and you’ll be more successful as a solution deliverer.
An analytical thinker. From analyzing deliver dates, to analyzing resource usage and needs, to analyzing the financial health of the project at any given time, the project manager must be an analytical thinker. Like the negotiation skills, this analytical way of thinking just needs to kick in when needed. If you’re a new project manager you learn it by doing – stick to best practices and always be keen on analyzing where the project is and where it needs to go and calculating the best way to get there. Through that ongoing thinking process, you will become a good analytical thinking PM. Or you’ll realize you can’t do it and you’ll just move into middle management where you aren’t challenged much…sorry, I got off topic for a moment there.
A connected leader. The best PMs are connected in the organization. I’m not saying you manipulate. Not at all. But you look at your projects and consider what connections are going to serve you, your team, your project, and your project client the best and you work to make those connections happen. For me it’s always someone in accounting to get the best financial information for my project – good connections can make that happen effortlessly on a weekly basis. It’s also good to have good connections on the development leadership team when dealing with technical projects because you want to get the best tech resources available TO YOU whenever possible. Preferential treatment happens to those who work for it. And never forget the old adage…”do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Be kind…be nice…be honest…but be strategic as well. And be selfish for your projects and project clients.
Above reproach. Finally, always be above reproach. Don’t be Hillary Clinton staring a failed presidential bid in the face because you misused email and can’t get past the lies and deceit. Staying away from felonies is a good piece of advice. Clean out the closet – no skeletons. And do what you say you’re going to do…follow-through builds a great reputation. Be honest and of high integrity. Leaders don’t have the loudest voice…they have the best actions.
Summary / call for feedback
How about our readers? What would you add to this list? What characteristics make the best project managers in your opinion? I know I could add several more to this list but I’m looking forward to input and discussion from the community.