What It Takes To Be a Great Project Manager

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Lead and Listen: just a couple necessary traits to possess.

Everyone on a job cherishes a fantastic project manager. They are able to balance strong, project-driven leadership with empathetic support for the team.

These days, anyone can benefit by thinking like a project manager. Here are the characteristics that the best project managers possess.

1. They are natural born leaders.

It doesn’t require much effort for great project managers to enlist the action of others. They establish a clear and comprehensive vision that allows the team to jump in and do their part with confidence.

2. They are organized but not rigid.

This is their area of expertise; they know how to put the parts in place. They are detailed oriented and plan a project well; so, they can be comfortably fluid and nimble enough to adjust when things start to move.

3. They set the team up for success.

They genuinely care about each team member and want to see them do well, without compromising the project. They encourage and support a healthy team dynamic, and strive to make milestones clear and frictionless.

4. They are good communicators.

Great project managers communicate with precision. They don’t bog the team down with details that don’t concern them, and make requests and action items clear.

5. They know how wrangle.

They keep the team united and moving toward project success, without being overbearing or micromanaging. They know that relevant check-ins and re-groups can go a long way.

6. They keep their eye on the prize.

They watch over the project and always stay focused on its primary goal. Occasionally, project managers need to get in the weeds with the team — let them explore a potential path. But they are always able to zoom back out to the bigger picture, and refocus on the original scope of work.

7. They are excellent listeners.

They are the masters of listening; they hear what others don’t. Discrepancies, out of scope requests, and lack of alignment scream to them. They surface these issues and seek to resolve them before moving forward.

8. They spot the cracks and call time-out.

They seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to detecting projects issues (and potential issues), and have the thick skin to address them immediately — even if it means becoming a killjoy. They address project challenges with a solutions-oriented perspective, minus the blame or drama; and do what they can to get the team on board and feeling positive.

9. They know what they’re delivering.

It’s not just that they have great general project management skills — they also have a deep familiarity with one or multiple fields that gives them an authoritative edge and solid strategic insight.

10. They don’t neglect the nuts and bolts.

Not only are they responsible for the team and the project goals, they also need to carefully track the budget and schedule. This is tactical, and not nearly as nuanced as team dynamics — but it is absolutely necessary to a project’s success. It is the core competency of any project manager.

And, the grand finale bonus…they are enthusiastic and likable.

To them, project management is an exciting challenge; they’re passionate about what they do. They love collaborating, problem-solving, and seeing the project come to life — even with all the bumps and bruises along the way.

Melanie Barter

Melanie is an executive producer with a creative background in film, digital and marketing. She is originally from Toronto and has worked in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. She has been in San Francisco since 2004.

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