Finding a Great Project Manager

by Andrew Romanek

I believe that everybody has some calling in this world, and a set of skills and traits that are well suited to that calling. Conversely, and specifically with regards to project management, I believe that too many people are put into that role when it is a poor fit. These situations ultimately result in rework, extra costs, schedule delays, employee morale issues, frustration, and often failure. Project management should be viewed as a specialty, and one requiring a rather unique set of skills to achieve excellence. It should not be viewed as a role that many in your organization can fill, a role that a technical specialist can handle because he/she has a good relationship with the client, or as a stepping stone in a career path (e.g., to a sales or client manager position), for example.

Let’s say your company has gotten past that hurdle and is committed having an exceptional corps of project managers, whether internal only or supplemented with outsourced experts. How do you find a great project manager? While there are multiple factors (e.g., experience, past performance, references, etc.) that go into such a search and are beyond the scope of this brief article, provided below are a few traits that I have found are key metrics in assessing how successful a project manager will be.

  1. Range of Focus – Think aperture of a camera lens. Most people are either big-picture thinkers or have a high attention to detail. Great project managers have an ability to do either depending on the needs of the situation.
  2. Active Listener – It is a given that good project managers must be good communicators, but how about active and effective listeners as well? Great project managers are adept at understanding what is most important to each stakeholder.
  3. Effective Time Management – Those that are more organized with respect to their time, action items, and responsiveness tend to be more successful as project managers. Great project managers are not overwhelmed managing multiple projects at once. They are energized by this.
  4. Advocate for Project Success – Great project managers identify with being a project manager, welcome the challenge, and are driven advocates for project success.
  5. Writing Skills – Whether it is a thoroughly detailed scope of work or a simple email, great project managers communicate as effectively in writing as they do with spoken words.
  6. Financial Savvy – You don’t need a finance degree, but great project managers are constantly thinking about financial performance, not just on meeting budget, but on knowing where things stand and maximizing benefits within a given budget.