Consider this: you have the responsibility for hiring someone to manage a mission critical project in your department; the stakes are high and you cannot afford to make a misstep. Compounding the issue is the fact that you haven’t hired a project manager before. So, what should you do? What should you look for? Our experience suggests that the following 6 habits are common among effective project managers (PM), regardless of discipline.
6 Habits of Highly Effective Project Managers
- Taking a Methodical Approach to Almost Everything – To say that project managers are organized is perhaps an understatement. They are highly methodical thinkers all the time. This is not to say that creativity is non-existent. In fact, the best project managers will tap into their creative juices when solving problems and addressing unexpected delays or deviations. Being able to think methodically and creatively helps the project manager outline the project plan, align resources, schedule tasks, and address issues and risk throughout the project.
- Simplifying Complex Ideas and Information Regularly – When project teams or stakeholders become consumed with complex details they will often fail to see the bigger picture. Successful project managers have a knack and history of simplifying apparent complex issues, making them easy to understand and helping you and their project team stay focused on the main goal.
- Delegating and Leading Effectively – It’s not uncommon for project managers to get bogged down with details; however, more successful ones realize that micromanagement is a no-win proposition, and they constantly identify opportunities to effectively delegate. In many cases, the size of the project and available resources will determine how much the PM needs to delegate vs. address themselves. Being able to lead and delegate with authority and optimism will make the project manager more effective and the team more comfortable taking direction.
- Addressing Problems Quickly – For successful project managers, addressing problems when they first arise is not forced behavior; it’s almost a gut reaction. Problem-solving skills are usually developed early in the project manager’s career. Coupled with that skill is the ability to foresee potential problems before they arise and create mitigation strategies in the event those issues or risk occur.
- Communicating with sensitivity and forthrightness – This habit is practically a way of life for great project managers; they are students of the art of good communication, which means they know how to listen, affirm, challenge and explain. They know how to do this with the team and Management. They must be able to communicate project status, issues, and metrics in a way that’s appropriate for the audience, who could change from hour to hour.
- Staying Abreast of Current Trends and Technology – Remaining at the forefront of current trends helps us stay relevant. Project Managers place a top priority on continuing their education. Doing so allows them to perform their jobs better and more efficiently, which leads to successful outcomes.
Not all project managers are created equal. Screening for each of these habits will increase the likelihood that you will hire the right person the first time.
Integrity, professionalism, and adaptability are additional skills you want to see in action during your project. Keep monitoring for these traits along with the 6 habits you assessed during your screening. You know you’ve found a great PM when you feel comfortable that project details are being managed and you repeatedly see value in the work the project manager and his/her team are delivering. If they love what they do, hints of that should show during your screening and throughout the project.
What other habits of highly effective project managers would you add to this list?
Chrystal Richardson is Managing Partner of CE Wilson Consulting, a project management and business efficiency consulting firm that has managed projects for technology, mining, medical and manufacturing clients since 2001. She authors the ‘Project Management DNA’ blog.