Key Attributes of an Effective Project Manager

    September 8, 2006

If you think that everyone has the right stuff’ to be a great project manager–think again! To re-lyric a song made famous by the British rock band “Queen,” good project managers are true champions, and they’ll keep on fighting til the end.

How well do you measure up?

Are you wondering what it takes to be the type of project manager that consulting companies are chomping at the bit to have in charge of their project? In an article Deborah Bigelow recently penned for The Expert Series, a collection of articles by PM Solution’s experts, some say the most important qualities are skills, talent and breadth of experience-while others would cite an extraordinary energy level, great political skills and an obsession with details as key. Bigelow also notes, “And while all of these characteristics are indeed strong identifiers, there’s a lot more to being a good project manager than this.”

According to a study on the traits of effective project managers conducted by Project Management Best Practices Report, the most defining traits are:

1. Total honesty in all communications efforts

2. Focus, focus, focus

3. Organized and detail-oriented

4. A positive attitude

5. Self confidence and high self esteem

6. An even temperament

7. Extremely customer-focused

Good Project Managers Think, Breathe, Act, and Feel Like a Customer

A good project manager needs to have a connection (even if it’s a loose one) back to the customer. Since you are usually the only link, you have to think, feel and act like a customer. Simply put, you must be the customer advocate at all times. Unless you have a good link back to the customer, you simply can’t produce a finished product that your customer truly wants.

“A good project manager has to be able to put himself in the customer’s shoes and mold the finished product from a high level standpoint. And the only way to do that is to think like a customer. “So, I would say that’s one of the top characteristics of a good project manager,” says Ray White, President of Scoutwest Inc., a leading project and time management solutions company.

The Training of a Project Manager

Although many project managers fall into the profession of project management, most have had some sort of background in sales or customer service.

“Most project managers have something in their pedigree where they’ve had that kind of exposure or relationship. That’s what gives them the ability to see things from a customer standpoint,” said Ray.

The best kind of training you can get is hands-on experience. If you’re still in the project coordinator or assistant stage of your career, make a point of spending a few years sitting in your customer’s seat answering questions. Those years will make you see things differently. And a few years worrying about budgets and costs wouldn’t hurt either; especially since most normal employees don’t have an accurate sense of the cold realities of business.

Tools of the Trade

And don’t forget to learn the tools of the trade. A good project manager is nothing without Time tracking software, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Word, Excel spreadsheets, and a good scheduling tool. A good project manager depends heavily on these tools.

“Project managers do a lot of spread sheeting and what if’ scenarios to try and figure out how to get a product out faster,” said Ray. “Without these necessary tools, they’re dead in the water.”

What do you think now? Think you’ve got what it takes to be a good project manager? The good news is that you can always learn to be a better project manager. Job experiences, formal education, and training can all help you develop the traits and skills necessary to be a stellar project manager. Now that you know what it takes to make a good project tick, do whatever you need to do ensure your success!

This article comprises information attained from the following source:

Featured Article in The Expert Series

What Makes a Good Project Manager by Deborah Bigelow, PMP


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Ray White is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Scoutwest, Inc., the developers of Standard Time Project Management Software. Ray’s involvement in software development and project management began over 26 years at Eastman Kodak company and since then he has worked with approximately 30 executives, 90 project managers, 300 engineers, and 10,000 customers. By project managers, for project managers – his project management products help thousands of international customers plan and track time for their mission critical projects.