Not everyone is cut out for project management. Some of us could imagine nothing worse than having to oversee and direct a group of people in a high-pressure work setting. Others thrive in such situations and derive great satisfaction from being a leader and having people count on them.
Of course, the desire to lead is only one of the many factors that determine whether you will be a successful project manager. Whether you’re asking yourself “What do I need to start a business?”, “How do I complete a project on time and on deadline?”, or “How can I be a better construction project manager?”, there are a number of core personality traits and leadership skills that are key.
You’ll never get assigned to manage a project if you don’t have confidence. But if you lack the humility necessary to recognize, admit and correct mistakes during the course of the project, you’ll likely never get assigned another one.
Good project managers know that they don’t have all the answers and they’re not reluctant to ask for advice and suggestions from others on the team, including subordinates. By not shying away from questions, they are able to more effectively draw on the experience and skills that their co-workers bring to the team.
In addition to seeking feedback from others, strong managers also submit themselves to honest self-assessments and think critically about whether they’re truly doing things as well as they could be done. When they make mistakes, they don’t try to cover them up or hope that others simply won’t notice them; they acknowledge the error and move to address it as quickly as possible.
A sense of humility can also pay huge dividends in terms of employee morale, which is why it is frequently cited as a key attribute for great bosses. A leader who fairly assesses herself will likely do the same with her employees. That means that even if you hold your subordinates to high standards, your demands of them are realistic and you accept that they, like you, are imperfect and will inevitably make mistakes.
There are different types of communication skills, but perhaps the most obvious (and necessary) one is for a leader to have the ability to speak and write clearly, leaving little room for misinterpretation. That’s not always easy when you’re put on the spot, particularly if you’re delivering news or instructions you know that those who are listening might not want to hear. That reluctance to be upfront with co-workers often manifests itself in long run-on sentences, equivocations and euphemisms that leave employees puzzled and lacking confidence about what they’re supposed to do.
Strong communication is also about good listening. Someone who clearly has trouble paying attention to his teammates will have a hard time convincing them with whatever he says, simply because it does not appear that he is taking into account others’ opinions and suggestions.
Tone is also an invaluable part of communication in project management and unfortunately, it can be challenging to teach people how to modify their manner to make a more positive impression on co-workers. It can also be hard to agree on what exactly is the appropriate tone, or how to interpret a given comment. This is an area of communication where a conscientious project manager would regularly self-assess, and take care to try to show appreciation for colleagues in her remarks.
Bright ideas and the respect of employees won’t save you if you can’t stay organized. Effective managers are able to keep themselves and their teams coordinated amidst the chaos and stress of the job site.
Organization starts with planning. Good leaders implement planning processes so they can be sure that important things aren’t overlooked or forgotten (either by them or the team), and so that the team does not spend valuable time figuring out what to do next as soon as they start a to-do list.
Solid organization is not just about looking to the future, however. Just as critical is your ability to keep track of things that you’ve already done by keeping accurate records and ensuring that important information (such as client invoices, expenses, staff scheduling and other business data) isn’t lost.
Project management software has made it easier for leaders to keep track of their project’s vital information, as well as stay in touch with employees working at multiple job sites. In the end, the key to staying organized is focus. An inability to keep track of a project, your mobile workforce or your client’s expectations using workforce tools is likely the product of an inability to organize your own thoughts or focus on what you need to do.
When a project is do-or-die, there’s no place for dithering when you're in charge.
While it’s important to be thoughtful and willing to change course when necessary, it’s important that other members of the team can be confident in you rendering a decision when there’s a tough call to make. A leader who is unable to make firm decisions – or who appears to ignore the decisions they have just made – can devastate a team, leading to confusion and ultimately a loss of confidence in the project.
Being resolute is important no matter how trivial the decision. If you’re unable or unwilling to come to a conclusion on trivial matters, you’ll often end up wasting valuable time that could have otherwise been spent on more important issues. Indeed, a big part of being decisive is respecting time and developing the time management skills that allow you to be as efficient as possible with that critical resource.
You shouldn’t get into project management if you don’t care deeply about the people you are leading. You should want to see them succeed –– and not just because their success paves your own. You should enjoy seeing them thrive and strive to help them develop into even stronger employees.
The fact is that employees are more effective when they feel that the people managing them actually care about their welfare and want to do what’s best for them. They are more likely to go the extra mile for a boss or team leader who they admire and who they believe is treating them fairly. You will deal with less absenteeism, less time theft and the many other types of negative employee behavior that often results from workers growing disillusioned with management.
Finally, if you show that you care, you’ll find it much easier to attract and retain the top talent. Employees will become loyal and even better at their jobs, while your reputation as a caring employer will lead to top employees in the area seeking you out for work.
Traits can be learned!
All of us have strengths and weaknesses, and some of us will be naturally better at project management. But don’t give up on developing better leadership traits just because these skills may be harder to hone. If you work consistently on improving your weaknesses by taking public speaking classes, effectively managing your time or simply thinking critically about ways that you could improve your interactions with employees, becoming an effective project manager is well within your reach.