Project managers “seemingly” have the most straightforward role in an organization: just make sure the trains run smoothly, know the project's scope and oversee it. However, anyone who's taken on a project manager role understands that they need to be able to juggle multiple balls, on multiple timelines, all at once.
What makes a good project manager, then? The qualities that make a great PM so great are often the qualities that get the least recognition. Ironically, these underappreciated qualities can make or break an organization. Which ones do you possess?
Keeping all the trains running when multiple projects are running concurrently isn't just a matter of checking off the boxes on a to-do list. A good project manager has the ability to see and understand all timelines at once, prioritize when conflicts arise, and stagger deliverables to keep internal team members on task. A great project manager knows that that these timelines have to not only be understood, but written, tracked, and communicated throughout the whole project for everyone to follow as well.
2. Handle on scope
Having an appropriate idea of the scope of each project is important for many reasons. A great project manager will understand the priority level of each client in order to be able to delegate the appropriate amount of work that should go into one. In this way, the project manager can both ensure that the team members are focused enough and that the clients' needs are being met, and also that the team members don't over-work on any project and their needs are being met as well. Pleasing everyone is a difficult task that doesn't always stand out to others––and one of a project manager's most key ones as well.
3. Communication––with both inside and outside parties
Everything can only run smoothly when everyone involved understands their roles, timelines, and any changes in either along the way. A great project manager seamlessly communicates each update to all parties so everyone is apprised of the situation without questions. This often seems simple from the outside, but it's not––revising a schedule on the fly while constantly updating and letting multiple people know takes a solid communication plan, finesse, and time, too.
4. Know a little bit about a lot
Along with communication comes knowledge. You can only communicate about each piece of the puzzle when you understand how it fits (and often, why) for every person involved. While a project manager isn't considered the expert on every field, they need to understand each, which is often overlooked. If a project manager doesn't understand the full technical scope of their team's responsibilities, then he/she can't comprehend the time needed to complete them or convey such information to clients or outside parties. Thus, a project manager's ability to become a chameleon of knowledge is often under-appreciated and vastly important.
Like all professions, we all need to keep our skills fresh and benefit from ongoing professional training. Project Management is no different. There are professional organizations like the PMI that are incredible resources. At Genesis10, we are seeing the role of the project manager continue to evolve into the role of the Scrum Master with the continued adoption of agile. Keep this in mind as you look at ongoing professional training and consider a scrum certification class.
5. Be optimistic and take charge
Lastly, a skill that often isn't appreciated (until it's gone!) is the ability to motivate and encourage team members. A great project manager has this positive ability to inspire work––an effort which can require energy as well as interpersonal talent. Additionally, while a great project manager should be able to motivate those around him/her, this person will also have to take charge when needed and move projects along, sometimes against internal or external resistance. Relying on others for project completion is never easy, but with good project management, the wheels will keep turning with their subtle yet firm assistance.
These five qualities are often underappreciated in a great project manager, but as with any position where the goal is to keep others on task, happy, and growing, the role is one of the most vital and effective in any team, when held by a project manager that can lead and inspire.
Looking for your next project management opportunity? Genesis10, America's leading IT staffing firm, can help you find it.
Remster Bingham is a frequent contributor to the Genesis10 blog.
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