5 essential qualities of a successful project manager

5 essential qualities of a successful project manager (with examples)

So, if you’re ready to move from being a successful project management with examples to a great one, then read on! This article provides all the insights you need to take the next step in your project management career.

Essential quality #1: Strategic leadership, not just implementation

To be a good project manager you need to deliver projects on time and on budget. But to be a great project manager, you need to offer high-level strategic leadership skills, as well as provide first-rate implementation and technical capabilities.

The first step is to have a solid understanding of how your project fits within the overarching strategic plan of your organisation. This will enable you to best navigate your way through additional complexity and make sound decisions that reflect your organisation’s primary objectives and long-term goals.

Essential quality #2: Effectively articulate a shared vision

Delivering a project is one thing, but effectively articulating a vision for what the organisation will look like once the project is complete, is quite another.

There are so many benefits to effectively articulating an evocative future vision – especially one that inspires and excites your team members. It can:

  • help to direct and lead people in the right direction
  • increase stakeholder buy-in, ensuring they’re fully vested in the project’s success
  • help to reduce barriers to change
  • increase C-Suite support for the project
  • increase internal project visibility
  • align the project with the organisation’s overarching strategic goals, giving it greater relevancy
  • excite team members, increasing their job satisfaction and organisational tenure.

Essential quality #3: Comfortable with working in the ‘grey zone’

The ability to ‘work in the grey’ is a must-have skill for project managers. Situational ambiguity, grey areas, complexity, limitations and uncertainties are now part of project management ‘business as usual’, and you now differences between business analysis and project manager.

The key to navigating grey areas is to stay focused, and not get rattled by lack of information or ambiguity. Seek out as many solutions as you can by actively pursuing input from the team or other stakeholders. In addition, the ability to actively problem-solve, especially in times of great complexity and ambiguity, is key to being a top-notch project manager. When others avoid problems, great project managers are determined to resolve them. Do you?

Essential quality #4: Practice conflict management and negotiation skills

Conflict will always arise in the workplace. Being adept at handling conflict is critical in a project management role. Not only does it keep a project moving, but it also ensures any hiccups are managed in a way that maintains harmony amongst the team.

Negotiation and conflict management are skills to learn and practice, and here are some key pointers to doing it right:

  • Never get angry or raise your voice. Always keep your cool and aim to defuse any situation
  • Seek a collaborative approach to conflict management. Try to aim for an outcome that satisfies all parties (if possible)
  • Clearly identify the points of disagreement. Don’t generalize, but be specific in clarifying the problem to be solved
  • Ask others for solutions to the problems and let everyone have their say. Create an environment where people are empowered to speak up to offer solutions. Talk about the viability and feasibility of the suggestions as a team, and evaluate the best way forward
  • Separate the problem from the person and don’t hold grudges. Any ill-will will severely hamper your project management progression and success.

Essential quality #5: Harness a growth mindset

A growth mindset in the workplace is often characterised by being open-minded, showing strong situational awareness, taking ownership (especially if any problems that arise), breaking down silos and creating an inclusive and diverse team that is empowered to contribute.

These qualities enable project managers to thrive under pressure, get the most from their team and look at a problem from all angles. It also allows project managers to be nimble and pivot should they need to, especially in the complex and dynamic world in which we live.

In contrast, a fixed mindset can make people avoid challenges, ignore feedback, hide flaws and view feedback as personal criticism. This makes effective and nimble project management much more difficult.

Personal Reflection Successful Project Management With Examples

Reflection Successful Project Management with examples

So, how do you feel you’re performing on the 5 qualities above? If you haven’t mastered them all, don’t worry. Project management is a ‘work in progress’ and you will have the opportunity to practice these skills daily. We encourage you to think about how you can optimize each of these qualities in your role, to grow as a project manager and leader.

Successful Project Management With Examples

As a project management professional, it has taken many years to master these skills. So, let’s look at a few examples from my past.

Example #1:

It was managing banking loan applications software in Indonesia and Ghana when I got really comfortable working in the ‘grey zone’.

Example #2:

It was managing and documenting projects in the mining industry when I really understood the importance of strategic leadership.

Example #3:

It was managing golf scoring system development in Malaysia that tested my negotiation skills.

It takes time and exposure to a range of problems to become the best at what you do. So, we encourage you to think about how you can optimize each of these 5 qualities in your role, to grow as a project manager and leader.

Are you looking for someone who’s mastered the project management art?

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