Today is the tenth run of this series of Project Management Fundamentals that I am facilitating for a corporate customer of EPM Training Services. During the first run, one of the learners asked me what my thought of the qualities that a Project Manager ought to have is? So I pondered for a while and listed down the top 5 qualities that I thought were important for a Project Manager.
First and foremost, having integrity is the most critical quality that one ought to have. This does not limit us to being project managers but how we deal with our professional and personal lives. Without integrity, I do not feel we need to go through the rest of the qualities as they will be meaningless.
As a project manager, we tend to receive privileged information on the customer and their organisation. We need to withhold this information and limit their application of them to tasks that are relevant to the execution of the project.
Project execution is full of uncertainties, especially if the project is trying to achieve something significantly innovative or revolutionary. One shouldn't fall into the trap of delivering only positive news and hiding that negative news away from the stakeholders. Delivery factual information, even when it's a failure and not sugar coating anything, puts the integrity of a project manager to the test.
Of course, the definition of integrity covers a much broader aspect than what I am stating here. The two examples above are solely to kick start the discussion, and it's not limited to those. The second example brings us to the following quality that I am sharing, Communication Skills.
A project manager spends most of their time communicating with various stakeholders using multiple channels. Depending on the stakeholders, a project manager needs to be aware of the different means and approaches and target those to specific stakeholders.
The following are the different communication channels I am sharing with the learners.
- Verbal — Face-to-Face, Zoom, Formal, Casual, Audio Recording
- Non-Verbal — Facial Expression, Posture, Movement, Touch
- Written — Email, Memo, Social Media, Letters
- Listening — Active Listening
- Visual — Videos (YouTube, IG, Tik Tok), Images, Graphics, Emoji 😁
We communicate to understand stakeholders' requirements, uncover the root cause, understand the potential risk, manage expectations, gather feedback, etc. We need to gather all this information and exchange it for executing the project according to plan and actively managing the risk.
At times, we might feel that we need to take action instead of wasting time talking or communicating. However, the fact is that getting clarity to a situation can save much more time instead of spending time beating around the bush. The relationship built during various communication methods helps establish such understanding.
A temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. The temporary nature of projects indicates a beginning and an end to the project work or a phase of the project work — Definition of Project, PMBOK Guide 7th Edition
Try to apply a standard process that you have been using for years and aim to achieve a different outcome this time. Only by doing things differently can we expect a different result.
When we are running a project trying to break certain boundaries or achieve a cutting edge, we need to bring creativity to the team. A project manager might not have in-depth knowledge of the project, but one ought to have a broad perspective and bring different Lenses of Innovation to the team.
Thus, I feel that being creative and daring to try something different, something irrelevant, might break the normality that we are approach things and start to break the pattern to see things differently. This is how innovation happened, a change in the mindset and dare to try different things.
You can better understand by reading this article on Innovation from IDEO.
Lead by Example
You are told to put in more effort, try something different, and not be afraid of failure. However, you saw that the project manager resists all the new recommendations and constantly approves those conventional approaches and ideas. Do you think the team members dare to be different?
If we asked the team members to be daring and try something different, we needed to walk the talk and show that we mean what we said, even if we failed trying something different. A project manager must not be afraid to dirty one's hand to be on the ground with the team members. Whatever we ask the team to do, we need to show that we know what we are asking and show the team that we mean business.
For example, to experience the living condition and show people that he means business, the then CEO spend a night sleeping in the hostel for the mineworkers, while many advise against doing it. By doing this, people take him to heart, and I feel that he got to experience it for himself, the reality on the ground.
Lastly, while a project is a temporary endeavour, the duration to complete it might drag on for years. The feeling of excitement and energy level might dissipate for a project that runs for more than three years. Therefore, the team needs to have the means to keep the energy and morale high.
A project manager needs to have the ability to endure this journey to overcome all the challenges, tackle all the risks, and lead the team towards the end goal. While some different tools and techniques can help, those might not be available for the team to use, depending on the situation.
The attention period that we have had in recent times are getting shorter. If you are reading this statement from the beginning of this article, give yourself credit for being able to "endure" to this point. I understand that it's not easy, and thank you for enduring.
Many other qualities are required as a project manager. However, what I have listed here is not limited to these, and it's based on individual experience as a project manager and the situation that one faces.
After reading this article, you might have other considerations and qualities that you like to put up. If this article manages to trigger your thoughts, great! If not, I hope this is a start for you to explore the journey of being a project manager and what you need to do a great job.
All the best, and thank you for reading!