Good to Great: How to Be the Best Project Manager
What does it take to go from being a good project manager to a stand-out fantastic one?
The answer isn’t simply being able to streamline schedules, delegate tasks and balance budgets. Truly outstanding project managers exhibit collaborative leadership skills like negotiation, evaluation, agility and strategy every day. They know how to keep the project moving and team morale high; they know where they want to go, are aligned with their customer’s strategic vision, and are committed to moving their team forward collaboratively to a successful outcome.
Here’s a look at the difference between good and great project managers:
Good project managers take care of scheduling, production and communication. Great project managers are deeply involved in building team skills and in tactical execution of strategic vision.
Ernest Hemingway wrote, “Never mistake motion for action.” This rings true for the best project managers, who can adapt to changing information; know how to bring out the best in their team members, and when to encourage rather than push. Great PMs are capable of being the calm in the eye of the hurricane and act collaboratively and decisively, knowing that nothing is constant but change. These days, you also want to be the kind of agile project manager who’s flexible enough for fast iterations while making sure incremental progress is measured and achieved.
Good project managers stay on track. Great project managers know that the track will have some unexpected curves and can create real-time solutions.
Savvy project managers know that a project’s top priority is to help customers and products succeed and that the definition of such success might look different over time. Great PMs know that the administrative details of their projects have a higher purpose—and they take the time to look up from their plans and schedulers to contemplate the long-range, strategic view.
Good project managers worry about how they’ll get everything done. Great project managers know that collaboration, negotiation and problem solving are the keys to a successful outcome.
The best PMs have solid bargaining skills, and know how to effectively collaborate and negotiate to achieve their organization’s goals. They’re also expert practitioners in the four phases of negotiation:
- Preparation (gathering docs, data and facts to present the case)
- Disclosing information with the whole team, or interested parties
- Bargaining (focusing on common interests and objectives)
- Closure (making sure all stakeholders are truly on board)
Good project managers fret over outcomes. The best project managers are highly skilled at problem solving, and know the steps to take to achieve a solution.
Great PMs are specific about the exact nature of project challenges. They know how to assess fork-in-the-road situations and ask the right questions, such as: Is a new vendor needed or will the current one work if he’s managed differently? Will the customer be happier if we narrow the scope of this project or change delivery dates? Exceptional project managers generate alternatives; they evaluate and collaborate to select the best options without drama or second guessing.
Good project managers hire talented teams. Great project managers understand “the art of people,” and know how to utilize each person’s skills the right way at the right time.
A truly collaborative PM knows how to use the specific talents of each team member and is able to use the right kind of expertise to solve specific problems and find resolutions. Great project managers know that getting everyone on board with the project’s strategic vision will bring out the best teamwork, and that this kind of alignment is the driver behind effective communication and a successful project.
Great project managers have experience, the right skills and tools, and they’ve developed some really strong habits. To learn how it’s done, download or eBook, “5 Practical Habits for Today’s Project Manager.”