Do you know what makes a good project manager? Project management is about people, communication and changes. It’s not about cost, time and scope.

In this article I will show you why some project managers are ‘only’ project managers and others are ‘GOOD’ project managers.

It’s nice to have, but not enough

I am sure you’ve heard that a lot of people telling you that to be a good project manager you have to deliver your projects on time, on budget and with quality…. didn’t you?

All project managers need to:

  • Be well organized
  • Manage people
  • Work to keep tasks on schedule
  • Be good at solving problems
  • Know how to work with external vendors
  • Etc, etc, etc.

Yes, but all of that is not enough to be considered a good project manager.

Project management is one of the professions that involve a huge amount of complex activities. There is no room for wariness in this profession.

As a project manager, you are responsible for leading an entire team through activities evolving initiation, planning, execution, control, and completion of your project.

You need to adapt to different people, cultures, environments, and situations. YOU NEED TO BE FLEXIBLE. 

What is the difference between a project manager and a good (really good) project manager?

Project management is about people, communication and changes. Most of your time, you will spend leading people, communicating the project status and managing changes in your project.

Here are three key characteristics that make you go from a project manager to an OUTSTANDING project manager 

1. You must have an honest interest in people


The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work

Agha Hasan Abedi

In today’s world, people’s behavior is a key factor driving successful project management.  You need to be concerned about each of your team members. They will recognize you as a leader instead of a simple manager.

A good project manager should not only be a technical person, but must be primarily capable of managing the technical and emotional factors. Feelings, moods, and actions affect how team members and stakeholders perform their work on projects, and therefore managing emotional aspects is essential for successful project management.

Pay attention if a resource is over allocated. Ask them if they are working on any other project that could conflict with yours.

Evaluate their technical abilities and knowledges to make sure they will be comfortable working on their tasks. If they need an additional training (or certification), do it.

Talk to them to see if they have any problem, health, financial or any other problem that could affect their work and performance. Be interested in their well-being.

Life is not only work… we all need to balance work with our personal life. Be careful when you ask your team to do extra hours or to work faster. Be careful when you ask them to do things they never did before. Try to identify the level of stress of your project team.

Appreciate their effort and work. Appreciation is a powerful tool to keep your team motivated and to build a solid leadership. Rewards and motivation are the driving force of your project. Keep it full.

Enhance your political skills. I’m not talking about working in a political job, but instead to develop political skills to enable team members to collectively achieve a goal that they cannot otherwise achieve individually. Developing political skills involves negotiating skills, debating, roles and responsibilities that help your team make decisions collectively.

2. Be curious and sometimes sceptical in what people are saying. Always keep your communication channels open.


To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others

Tony Robbins

Communication is about understanding the complete message, not only about speaking to and hearing from people. We usually do not communicate very well when asking for something, that’s why one of the biggest challenges when managing a project is to have a clear scope definition.

Start asking to your customer or sponsor, “why do you want this?” This will give you valuable information about the benefits of your project. When someone provides a “why” answer, they are giving you reasons, needs, results or expectations that will give you the direction of your project. In other words, the benefits

After that, ask, “how do you want the project to get done?”  This will give you information about some constraints you need to manage in your project.

Note that I am not telling you to ask “what,” but “how.” The “what” is your team’s responsibility to define. ‘How’ is related to your resources (human, material and financial) and project scenario (location, culture, rules, dependencies, etc.). Work closely with your SMEs and solution architects to have a clear understand on ‘what’ needs to be done.

Understanding the needs of your audience is critical to successful communication. This is closely related to the previous item. Pay attention to people and their information needs. Put yourself in their shoes to understand why they need it.

Being skeptical does not mean being unbeliever, but seeking all the details that ground an information. One of the most frequent examples is when we ask someone to give us an estimate of effort or time to deliver their work.  We all tend to overestimate our efforts. Your job is to challenge people to substantiate information with facts and examples.

A good project manager always seeks to challenge his team through new paths, new processes or new knowledge. This is developing a team.

3. If you are not prepared for changes, you should not be a project manager.


Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek

Barak Obama

You are the man/woman… you are the one responsible for the project… you will make changes happen. When it comes to project delivery, we will always be addressing changes. As a project manager you have to switch from looking at plans, schedules and milestones to care about people and changes.

Think of different scenarios that can lead you to delivery your project. Identify a few different alternatives or paths to follow so that if something happens in the middle of the project you can change the direction. This is called risk management.

Change in human behavior is tough, but not impossible. People resist change because they believe they will lose something, or fear they will not be able to adapt to new processes. One big mistake project managers often make is dealing with the practical elements of change, but ignore the emotional side of the equation.

Do not get frustrated with what I’m going to say, but you’ll rarely have a project that will be completed based on your first plan. All projects will change from the initial plan. As your project goes further, the initial conditions will change and you will need to change your project plan accordingly

Is project management for you?

If you are looking to work with project management, you have to do a deep reflection on these three conditions that were listed above.

If you do not feel comfortable with any of them, look for another profession.

If you are passionate about people, changes and communication, you are a great candidate to be a GOOD PROJECT MANAGER.

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