How To Be A Good Project Manager

 |  By: Kate Jones

We write a lot about how to keep projects on track, how to make them more collaborative, and how to reduce project issues and road blocks. We also talk about how all these things are made infinitely simpler with the right system. But what about the right project manager? 

In any scenario, having a good manager will make the task in hand immeasurably easier, and let’s face, a lot more enjoyable. So what skills make a good project manager?

Communication, Communication, Communication

A Project Manager is the project’s leader and the person who the majority of the team report to. Therefore, it’s vital that they are a strong and clear communicator. 

Communication is collaboration's best friend, you simply can't do one without the other and projects are inherently collaborative. Not only does the Project Manager need to sell the vision for the project and get everyone excited about their role, but they are the voice of any project changes. They must ensure that everyone is crystal clear on what is expected of them in an evolving landscape with potentially difficult phases. When a project manager becomes unclear on the direction or can’t communicate this effectively, then frustration and uncertainty creep in and projects can become confused, stressful and a great deal of time is wasted. 

But good communication isn’t just about strength and clarity. A good Project Manager must also show compassion and understanding. Ultimately they are responsible for the quality of the project, and therefore they must be able to deliver feedback in a constructive way that won’t alienate or deflate team members. And the team must trust them. In their vision but also in their leadership. Everyone must feel supported and know they're not going to get thrown under the bus if there are hiccups.

Similarly, they must build a rapport and a great deal of trust with the client. So there are all sorts of softer, friendlier communication skills they must possess.

Logical thinking and problem solving

It’s in our DNA, some of us can’t help but get hot under the collar in stressful situations. The hedgehog for example, will immediately curl into a ball at the first sign of danger. A deer will simply stand still. When faced with a pressured situation, some humans have a natural ability to remain calm and simply find a logical solution, Sherlock Holmes for example is great at this. As well as being handy for detectives, this is a crucial skill for a Project Manager because no matter how meticulously planned a project may be, there are often issues that can’t be foreseen. For example, a change in role client-side might bring changes to the project direction or budget. Perhaps a member of your own project team becomes unavailable? 

A Project Manager has to be able to solve these issues without flapping and letting a message of fear or stress ripple through the whole project team. The Project Manager must also understand that the solution will often involve other people, they can’t simply bottle the issue up and deal with it in a silo for fear of upsetting the team. 

It’s about having a calm, collaborative and logical approach to solving problems. Understanding what it takes and how this must be communicated to the wider project team. An experienced and highly skilled Project Manager will be able to deal with these unexpected issues quickly, and without breaking a sweat. It’s just par for the course.

Having the confidence not to micromanage

We’ve all had a micromanaging boss. Someone who lives and dies by the ethos that whatever you’re doing, they could definitely do it better. There is a seemingly endless list of issues this causes. You become unfulfilled, as really are you the one actually doing the work? You become robotic and usually begin to doubt your own ability. When you are constantly being watched it’s very hard to remain confident in your own decisions and talents. It’s easier to just switch off and say yes. And what micromanaging managers often don’t see, is the sheer amount of time it takes to discuss every detail.

The fact is, if a manager is a micromanager then it’s much more about them than you and your ability. Micromanaging usually comes from a place of fear over lack of control. It can be especially challenging for a Project Manager not to micromanage because ultimately, they hold responsibility for the entire project and it’s their job to know exactly what’s going on.

So what is the answer? If a Project Manager, has complete, live visibility of exactly what’s going on within their project, where work is up to and associated project financials, then they’re going to find it much easier to step back. Having one system to track all this information and feed back in simple, tangible actions, will help them immensely. They can step away and still have all the information they need in order to remain in complete control of the project. 

We worked with an agency CEO to produce this report on how deep the need for control and visibility runs. And we gleaned their advice on how they gain much-needed visibility within their projects.

Once the Project Manager has control and gives employees space to flourish, it’s amazing how far-reaching the benefits can be. Careers progress, fulfilment is evident, the quality of work goes up, and the time it takes to deliver goes down. Deloitte have studied this in detail, here’s more information on their findings.

What you may have deduced from this article is that being a good Project Manager isn’t easy. And it comes with all sorts of interpersonal skills that can’t necessarily be taught. But there is software, that can make the task immeasurably easier, allowing Project Managers to get the most from their team, while reducing the management time needed. So everyone, including the Project Manager, can focus on being the best they can in their role.