Today, project managers need an expanded skillset beyond technical project management skills to really excel. If you already know the basics of scope management, budgeting and scheduling, then let’s look at the key traits, the special seasoning, that separate average project managers from excellent ones.
These traits are observations from Jennifer Bridges, President of Optimo, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in project management and leadership development. She has spent over 20 years studying project managers, and knows which traits make them fail and what makes them successful.
Aside from the baseline skills, here are 4 traits of excellent project managers to evaluate yourself on:
1. The best project managers are constant learners
The best project managers are interested in learning and constant look into how to improve their baseline skills as well as their teams. They invest in themselves and are interested in continuing education through certification, webinars, or any other means. They possess a great deal of self-awareness and know which of their skills need the most improvement.
One way of being a better learner is to adopt a mentor (someone who has years of experience and has seen it all). If you can’t find anyone in your company or in person, you can look outside to find an expert in the field, either through a podcast, author, or other media.
Because learning is a give-and-take, you should also mentor others when the opportunity arises. When you’re in the position to share your knowledge, you reinforce what you’ve learned and learn new skills during the process. Also, having a mentee will always provide you with a different perspective. Through mentoring, you’ll discover new ways of teaching and working with different skillsets and personalities.
2. Great project managers are conscious and aware
Skilled project managers possess a keen sense of their team members strengths and weaknesses, and care about how they can best set each team member up for success. Project managers should be able to recognize when someone is struggling and needs support, so they can make adjustments accordingly. This awareness will help you to anticipate whether a team member will be able to handle a certain workload, which ultimately leads to better scheduling and budget estimates.
Awareness also means being in tune with the needs of the project as it progresses. When new information is being provided, whether about timelines, budgets, or scope, being aware of each stages of the project will allow you to make sure everything stays on track.
3. Leadership skills help project managers get the most out of their team
People don’t like to be managed, they like to follow a leader, and this is an important distinction that great project managers make. If you know your team’s strengths and weaknesses, you should be able to delegate effectively and step out of the way. Though part of your job is to make sure objectives are being met in a timely manner and people aren’t veering into unrelated tasks, try your best to influence your team instead of micro-managing them. You’ll find that this approach, compared to micromanaging also saves a lot of time.
Project managers need leadership skills that will help them navigate through any conflicts that might occur amongst team members or your business stakeholders. Use your position to set a tone of positivity. How you manage stress and obstacles will powerfully influence the way your team members also deal with stressful situations.
4. A good project manager knows the importance of building relationships
Project managers know that the relationships they build with their team members and those outside their team is what really helps them get things done.
Part of being a good relationship builder is being available and responsive. Stay on top of getting back to people, be available for people to access you if they have questions. As a project manager, you’ll always have lots of different people coming to you for answers.
If your relationship building skills are less than stellar, then know how to delegate to team members who are good at it. They should be prompt with following-up, are great communicators, and enjoy building relationships with others.
If you have the basics of project management down, but you really want to beef up your skills, then evaluate yourself against these 4 areas. During your next project, experiment with ways you can implement or strengthen these traits. As you get more practice, you’ll continue to build your project management expertise.