Posted On November 9, 2017 By Stephen De Kalb

A wise man was once asked how to guarantee success. His response was: “First, have a definite, clear practical ideal: a goal, an objective.

“Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends: wisdom, money, materials and methods.

“Third, adjust all your means to that end.”

That man was Aristotle, and his words ring true about life generally, and the role of a Project Manager specifically, as much today as they did 23 centuries ago. So one might think there’s little more to say about what qualities make a super Project Manager – but let’s try.

To start with, here’s a broad definition of the Project Manager’s role: to understand and manage all areas of their project, from the technical aspects and financial details to the human resources requirements, and to take ultimate responsibility for both the project and the team contributing to its outcome.

Now for the details.

What type of PM do you need?

Great Project Managers tend to fall into four distinct categories:

  • The General. This PM type tends to be direct and decisive, and because they prefer to lead projects than follow, they have high levels of self-confidence and enjoy making decisions. They’re often described as “dominant.” They are also risk takers and problem solvers, which makes it easy for team members to go to them with ideas or for direction. General-types are quickly bored by routine tasks, however, and instead are motivated by challenging projects.
  • The Mentor is a Project Manager who is characterised as being steady, sympathetic with others, and a good listener who strives to work with their teams in a happy, harmonious way. Whereas a General enjoys being in charge and will avoid being controlled, the Mentor will seek consensus and is compliant towards authority.
  • The Micro Manager is the type of PM who enjoys getting their hands dirty and working shoulder-to-shoulder with their teams.
  • The Strategist. This PM type thinks analytically and systematically, and makes decisions carefully and with lots of supporting information. When something is proposed, they will think through the entire process and every detail of how it would work within the big picture. For this reason, they’re likely to serve as the all-important “reality check” in project teams.

Four “must-have” qualities of a super PM

Broadly speaking, what each of these PM types has in common is that they are naturally creative problem solvers who think outside of the box. They’re also even-tempered and will undoubtedly be friendly, respectful, dependable, patient, enthusiastic, motivational, instinctive yet pragmatic, resilient and, importantly, detail- and results-oriented.

All this is fine and good, but there are four additional qualities that if missing in your next Project Manager, well, prepare yourself for disappointment.

  • First and foremost, project management is all about passion. The difference between a “so-so” PM and one who’s a star is a drive to find something he or she loves in every project they undertake – which in turn results in superior outcomes.
  • The champion Project Manager is also a very organised Project Manager. They have a knack for effective scheduling and can peer over the horizon while remaining focussed on pressing deadlines. Their organisational abilities also include knowing the capabilities of every team member, and to therefore being able to delegate effectively.
  • Thirdly, the stand-out PM not only has a great vision for their project, but they’re also able to clearly communicate that vision to their technical, finance and project teams, future users of the project’s deliverables, sponsors and other stakeholders – tweaking and prioritising what each audience needs to hear.

That tweaking is critical because contrary to popular belief, the ability of a Project Manager to communicate effectively is not a skill they’re born with – it’s a work-in-progress skill that requires constant attention to how messages are shaped and delivered to different audiences, and since good communication is bi-directional, how feedback is solicited and incorporated.

  • Finally, no Project Manager can be ultra-successful if they are not strong leaders. While you may say “like duh!” to that statement, the leadership skills required of a star PM are far more than being able to listen, manage conflicts, find compromises, be fair-minded and lead by example.

While these are fantastic characteristics that managers of every kind must strive for, they are universal values – and what works for a PM in a particular project or team environment will not necessarily be the same for that PM in a different project and with other individuals. This makes the leadership skills in a project management sense go beyond blindly following leadership “best practices.” Rather, it means taking the time to truly and deeply understand the changing leadership needs of a project team and other stakeholders, then constantly adapting guidance appropriately and decisively.

Sound difficult? That’s because it is.

At the end of the day…

The point of all this is that if you’re looking for a super Project Manager to oversee an important project, you should first have a good grasp on the challenges they will face.

Before you start your search, make a frank and honest appraisal of any roadblocks, booby traps and challenges that are inherit in your organisation, project and team dynamics. Only when you are armed with that assessment can you then look for potential Project Managers who possess the management style and personal characteristics best suited to your environment – improving the likelihood of project success – and who will be a leader, not simply an administrator.

If you’re an aspiring PM and would like to discover what type of style you’re inclined to adopt, contact us for a quick survey that will give you insights into your management strengths and areas to develop, and help you find your authentic, preferred style.

Need more?

TP3 offers a range of project management courses to help learners master everything from project scoping, planning, scheduling and implementation to quality control, risk management and cost analysis. Add to that courses on Microsoft Project and on the veritable art of managing and communicating with teams and stakeholders. We can even provide exceptional PM contractors to suit any project, large or small, without unwanted risks and overheads. To discover how we can help you, call us on 1300 658 388 or have a chat with your friendly TP3 Client Manager.