Personality Traits of Great Project Managers

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Most Project Managers begin as “Accidental Project Managers”, by flourishing and being successful in their Trade or Field they are elected to “step up” and provided with an opportunity to Lead a Project. More often than not this opportunity was “a do or die” or ‘sink or swim” scenario for young, up and coming professionals. Somehow through devotion, dedication, hard work, commitment and passion not only do they survive but they develop the skills and knowledge to continue as PMs and take on larger, more complex and more challenging Projects, eventually earning repetitions as accomplished and seasoned Professionals in the Project Management arena.

We all know that The “Hard Skills” in The Project Management Subject Matter and the Methodologies required to grow and prosper can be taught or learnt.

However The “Soft Skills”, being attributes and characteristics are more difficult to pick up along the way, and are generally hardwired or built in from an early age.

In Project Management one must remain flexible and adaptable and must possess the ability to move rapidity between tasks and concepts and “wear many hats”. The ability to do so requires varying characteristics and personas suited to the individual tasks and roles.

An extraverted Project Leader would be suited to and enjoy leading meetings, negotiating contracts, communicating with contractors on site and resolving conflicts. Whereas an introverted Project Manager would be more appropriate with forecasting, reviewing contracts, compiling reports, developing budgets and analysing data.   

Before the late nights cultivating and perfecting Gantt Charts or the countless hours entrenched in the PMBOK Guide studying and cramming to conquer The esteemed PMP Certification or the frustration in comprehending and mastering Earned Value Management, what were the Personality Traits that sets up imminent PMs for success?

My Ten (10) collective personally traits that are likely to build the foundations for an esteemed Project Management Career are:

Detail Oriented – A PM needs to pay attention to every aspect of his or her Project and deal with any area of concern promptly, before it becomes a problem. However it is equality as important that a PM, manages rather than does, as the lurking danger of becoming too detailed orientated is that The Project Manager will become excessively involved in micro aspects rather than continuing to be macro and focusing on the project as a whole.

Adaptable – To be respected a PM must be able to voice his or her opinion and that of their team without being pushy or aggressive. Yet, They must also be flexible, adjustable and adaptable and be prepared to take advice and act upon the recommendations of their SMEs and other Stakeholders. Even if he or she does not agree with the behaviour and/or opinions of others, they have an obligation as Professionals to show due respect.

Resourceful – To succeed in Project Management, one must be resourceful and “think outside of the box”. Project Management involves solving problems and complications that arise, whilst never giving up and over coming continuous resource allocation issues and countless obstacles on a daily basis.

Passionate – If you don’t love your Project no one else will. Project Management is a stimulating, thrilling and challenging but rewarding and satisfying Career choice and only those whom truly love their occupation and view Project Management as a Career rather an a Job will make it to the top.

Ability to Lead and Command – A PM must take charge and lead The Team and Project whilst being able to naturally influence Stakeholders from “all walks of life” and cannot simply rely on their title alone to claim respect. They must have the ability to not only see the vision and understand the big picture but be able to share that visualization with the team then influence and motive the team to productively move towards the goal.

Organisation – No Project Manager can succeed unless they are efficient and organised. It takes superior organisation and great time management skills to meet deadlines that are often tight and regularly perceived as unachievable. A Project Manager must also manage resources from a variety of fields and areas and ensure they are also punctual and have the ability to meet all milestones of the Project. The “buck stops” with the Project Manager and ultimately he or she is responsible.

Communication – Unfortunately most Projects never run smoothly and it is rare that a Project will come in on time, within scope and under budget. Hence The PM must possess superior communication skills both written and verbally through a number of medium’s to a wide variety of people in various environments in order to “steer the ship through the storm”. At times a PM needs to be calming, comforting and soothing yet at times he or she must be assertive, firm and even forceful. Other times it take the ability to negotiate and be persuasive to ensure the success of the Project. Whatever it takes The PM must have the Communication Skills to get the message across and keep the Project moving forward.  

Cool, Calm and Collected – There is and never has been any doubt that Project Management can be a stressful occupation. A project is full of complications and at times may even be considered chaotic. Only those whom are able to cope under pressure and continue to perform will succeed in the world of Project Management. Often great Project Mangers Careers are cut short due to the inability to handle the ongoing stress caused by the job. A PM must learn to not only cope under the strain’s and responsibilities placed upon them but also see the pressure as an opportunity and learn to thrive on the knowledge that they are able to influence and guide the outcome of the problem, whilst never ever letting their workforce or the stakeholders see them sweat.

Reliable and Honest – A PMs word must mean something. It is important when a Project Manager makes a promise they keep that promise at all costs. Team Members will respect their integrity and loyalty, though he or she must also hold others accountable in a firm yet fair manner if they are unable to deliver what is expected or required of them.

Analytical Skills – Often a Project Manager is responsible to deliver a Project or components of a Project of which he or she may not have any previous experience or exposure to. Each and every day they will receive data from a variety of sources about expenses, problems, delays, goals, resources, materials, vendors, etc. The received data will be provided by a variety of sources and often have various degrees of accuracy. The PM must analyse the information, deciphering, filtering and deciding for themselves and the best interests of The Project what to act upon and what to ignore. Being able to obtain a realistic view of the progress through the received information is another crucial requirement. A great Project Manager also possesses a six sense and is able to spot a weakness or potential risk a mile off and address the concern immediately, in order to ensure the Project remains on track.

There is however no magical formula and everyone is unique with strengths and weaknesses.

Ray Turner

Principal Ray Turner Consultants