My entire career has been based on project management and I personally think that I am absolutely terrible at project management and have not even yet come close to executing a project perfectly. There have been projects that have failed miserably and others where we might have stressed out over details that we thought would ruin a product, but it did not matter and it ended up being a success anyway. I have been fortunate enough to receive promotions and continue to get opportunities to expand my team. Why? If I feel I am not “good” at project management, somebody must think that I am doing something right. I am guessing that I am viewed as being an effective project manager and whatever I seem to be doing is yielding results. So, taking a step back what are the traits that I have learned or put an emphasis on that has made me an effective project manager?
Here’s my top three:
1.) How you “manage up” is just as important how you “manage down.” This goes over the head for some people and it amazes me. If you are indirectly throwing your team under the bus while trying to “manage up” you will never have long term success. You have to know how to play the game politically in both directions.
2.) No job or task is below you and never be afraid to get your hands dirty. This mantra has made my team and I feel like we can take on and accomplish anything, sometimes faster and more cost effectively.
3.) Know the business and the strategic direction, and then take it to a deeper level. The better knowledge and understanding you have on the business the easier it is to make decisions and/or present details on decision points to management. In many cases, we end up knowing/learning the business on new projects better than business managers themselves and it has helped in increasing the overall success of certain projects, reduced timelines as well as mitigate risks.
As I mentioned above and even in these areas I know that I am not perfect, but when I am with my team I always try to point out to them others within the company that are very strong in these areas. Before a meeting, I will say “Really watch how this person commands the room and builds up his group at the same time,” or “There is a VP taking on a menial task for one of his direct reports” so it is more than just me saying it but also giving other examples. Anyway, I am sure there is an entire laundry list of what makes a strong project manager, but these three are the ones I have picked up over the years that I think really stick out. How about you guys?