Is project management really all about dependencies, deliverables, and deadlines? Or is it about people and their specific, often unclearly defined demands? If you’re unable to answer with certainty, it’s quite possible that this insanely complex job is not for you.
If, however, you’re skillful at being everywhere at once while focused on a single goal, consider applying. Are you capable of understanding doubts, predicting difficulties and solving them in real time without major consequences? Are you clear-headed and sharp-minded against all odds, and charismatic enough to calm and motivate others? Well then, your future in project management is sure to be bright.
This shameless recruitment aside, project management stats convey that no less than 97% of all organizations believe that this practice is critical for success in the business world. This makes competent project leaders one of the top priorities of any employment and training team.
And, just to be perfectly clear about how important this profession is, here’s another fact: In 2013, companies were only able to meet the deadline and stay within their budget on less than one in every three projects undertaken. The single most common reason for such disappointing figures? You guessed it… an inexperienced project manager!
Due to its complexity, project management has a long list of job requirements. To employ the right person (or get employed) these six characteristics are simply too significant to be overlooked. More accurately, they are a must have for any ambitious and productive project manager:
Fine organizational skills seem like an obvious, yet quite logical demand of effective project management. This one should definitely hold the first place on your resume.
Before being carefully planned and eventually commenced, a project is nothing but a clutter of data, requests, and unspecified objectives. It’s up to the manager to make some sense of it all, sift through the information, and shape it into something easily manageable and realistically achievable. Then a project leader must establish a timeline, allocate roles, prioritize tasks and maintain control over the process.
Frankly, the fine line between being meticulously systematic and obsessively tidy is the line a good project manager needs to walk every single day. In addition to supervising his or her team, a project leader should be able to correctly asses when to get involved and when to step out. They avoid micromanagement and embrace delegation.
Even when firmly founded, a project can still collapse. However solid the risk management plan, it’s rarely a foolproof one. Unpredicted setbacks and delays are a fierce reality in project management, and a person in charge should be flexible, sturdy, and quick-witted enough to weather a sudden storm.
It goes without saying that such a person is always an eccentric thinker, an individual who never fears problems but takes them on as intellectual challenges. Simultaneously, this unique and valuable trait should be balanced out with patience and stamina, and a strong vision. Out of the uncertainty and chaos of change, leaders rise up and articulate a new image of the future that pulls the project together.
However uncomplicated, every project heavily relies on an accurately formed chain of dependencies, which falls under the most problematic, but crucial responsibilities of a project manager. As I’ve hinted before, in order to make some sense out of the yet unrefined project, the person behind the wheel should be capable of seeing the bigger picture before putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together.
Aside from the aforementioned critical thinking, a successful project leader must be endowed with plenty of other abilities:
- Seeing the bigger picture (the project)
- Comprehending its individual elements (milestones, tasks and subtasks),
- A capacity for planning and executing one consecutive step at the time (chain of dependencies)
- A mind analytical enough to discern even the subtlest and least obvious of mechanisms behind the picture frame (risk assessment)
In project management, the logical mindset needs to coexist and collaborate with the creative thinker.
Remember Frank Underwood, Kevin Spacey’s character from House of Cards? Or any politician ever, for that matter? An ethically poor example, I agree, but in terms of communication skills, masters of their craft. What’s in effect for all leaders, applies to effective project managers as well. Soft skills are vital and necessarily include the art of negotiation and persuasion, and a touch of empathy that urges project managers to actually listen to those with whom they communicate.
In fact, a Project Scope Statement without a communication plan is highly unlikely to meet the final deadline and deliver the promise. It’s up to project managers to establish a channel of fruitful interchange with everyone involved – team members, stakeholders and clients – and keep each party satisfied, their requirements fulfilled and expectations exceeded.
Undertaken by ten freelancers, and led and monitored by a guy with both enthusiasm and expertise, the biggest project failure of my career is simultaneously the one I had most fun working on.
Enthralled by the opportunity to learn from such a prominent figure, we forgot all about why we were there, and spent a month brainstorming and discussing brilliant, but tangential ideas. The first day on the job, the guy told us: “My talkative nature cannot be helped; you’ll have to learn to mute me out.” We didn’t.
Unlike my ex team leader, all people in high strategic positions understand the importance of drawing a line between passion and profession. Though exceptional project managers should possess both, they should also learn how to control and balance them out.
Experience may just be the most valuable asset here, but long-lasting involvement in something as complex as project management can come at a great price. It’s not rare that, after a couple of years, the enthusiasm starts to wither away. As a result, teams have to embark on a time-consuming, arduous, and potentially frustrating journey, commanded by a passive and gloomy person.
That’s why a project manager absolutely needs to be a charismatic leader, an optimistic thinker and a visionary. It’s an understatement to say that such a fearless attitude is motivational; it’s nothing less than contagious. Many leadership quotes and sourceless aphorisms that address this specific trait abound. But what it all comes down to is a unique ability to inspire.
Once people are intrigued, moved and excited by your ideas, they rarely need an additional push or empowerment. Nearly impossible to learn, but crucial for progress, this characteristic usually separates extraordinary project managers from good ones.
Do you resemble a person who’s methodical, agile, logical, articulate, trustful, clever, creative, empathic and inspiring at the same time? Waste not a second longer and leap into project management. For someone of your personality and intellectual build, it’s as thrilling and rewarding as a job can get.
Robin is a Technical Support Executive with a combined experience of 6 years. He is well acquainted with various Knowledge base tools and is currently associated with ProProfs. In his free time, Robin enjoys reading and traveling.
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