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5 characteristics of top project managers

Brad Egeland | Aug. 20, 2015
Top project managers often share key characteristics that make them successful.The best project managers bring these 5 characteristics to the table on every project they manage.

pm leader characteristics

Excellence shines through in many ways in every profession. In order to deliver consistent success in the project management world, our project leaders need to be bringing some skills and characteristics to the table. Success on any given project can be luck. Success on a consistent basis on project engagements is far more than just luck – it’s what the project manager is consistently bringing to each project, project team and project client they are managing.

What I want to consider here are what characteristics make up the top performing project managers. As you read, please be thinking about what you consider the best of the best PMs consistently bring to the table. What sets them apart from the less successful PMs?

Here are my top 5:

1. An organized thinker and doer. The best project managers are organized doers. Period. Why put off to tomorrow what you can get done today? The top project managers want to progress with each action – move forward, not sideways. They have a plan, and they want to follow it. They want to bring others – like the team – along for the ride so they will be organized thinkers and doers in how they conduct themselves when meeting with others and leading others.

All of this is just plain good practice for the project and for the project client you are working with. It’s logical, yes, but many get bogged down with so much work on their plate that at some point in the day they are ready to procrastinate. It’s best to avoid that because the work just keeps building up…and the top project managers don’t want that to happen.

2. A skillful negotiator. In the project management world, PMs often have to negotiate dates, resources, changes, dollars and other items on projects with anyone from the customer to their own team members to members of the executive management teams within the organization.

Sometimes we’re negotiating and we don’t even realize it. We must be skilled negotiators who are looking to better their position to successfully deliver on the project at every corner. Negotiation is just part of the game. Learn that game and you’ll be more successful as a solution deliverer.

3. An analytical thinker. From analyzing deliver dates, to analyzing resource usage and needs, to analyzing the financial health of the project at any given time, the project manager must be an analytical thinker. Like the negotiation skills, this analytical way of thinking just needs to kick in when needed.

If you’re a new project manager you learn it by doing – stick to best practices and always be keen on analyzing where the project is and where it needs to go and calculating the best way to get there. Through that ongoing thinking process, you will become a good analytical thinking PM. Or you’ll realize you can’t do it and you’ll just move into middle management where you aren’t challenged much…sorry, I got off topic for a moment there.


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