What Are the Skills of a Great Project Manager? (2017 Version)
"What makes a good project manager?" That has been a resounding question over the years! In fact, in 2000, I wrote an article for PMI’s PM Network magazine with that very same title; it was followed closely by our book of essays on the same topic. I found that good project managers exhibit extraordinary energy levels, phenomenal political skills, and an absolute obsession with results. These appeared to be the most common traits, but after continuing to read more articles and highlights of successful projects, I found other common threads woven into the personalities of successful project managers:
- Love of their work … and embracing the challenges
- Clear vision … and communicating this vision
- Strong team building skills … and setting positive tones
- Structure and alignment … creating the environment and direction
- Strong interpersonal skills … listening to and leading their teams
- Discipline … completing each phase of the project properly
- Communication skills … knowing when and to whom to communicate.
I found these threads with various nomenclatures -- “enthusiastic, optimistic, self-controlled, direct, team builders,” but the fabric was the same.
Fast forward to 2013, and the same question is being asked … and answered, in a new article: "What makes a GREAT project manager?" Things were changing. Project management itself had evolved over the years, creeping into the business side of organizations linking projects and strategies, combining a strategic focus with a business process for selecting and prioritizing projects. The great project manager needed to expand his/her capabilities in this direction. Thus, we started identifying great project managers with stronger business acumen, who were more strategically focused. “Analytical, conceptual, and visionary” were becoming key attributes of a great project manager. Project managers were also taking on a stronger leadership role.
Now, once again this month on TechRepublic, a new article appears answering the same sought-after question … Alison DeNiscom’s “10 Skills you need to become a great project manager” lists:
- Team empowerment
- Subject Matter Expertise
- Risk Management
- Expectations Management
- Decision Making Judgement
- Tech Savvy
- Business Acumen
Most of these skills look familiar. So again, despite the question being asked over and over again, the common core threads seem to be the same, although somewhat expanded with the evolution of project management.
I think the question keeps being asked because more and more people have entered the profession and want to make sure they understand and fulfill the role they are taking on. As an experienced project or program manager, what are your thoughts … do you feel these skills are representative of the project management profession? Would love to hear your perspective!