There are many and conflicting views in the public sector on what makes a good project manager. Is it someone with the right technical qualifications? Or someone with an obsession for “getting things done”? Is it at all possible to define what "good" looks like?
Excellent project managers blend a range of emotional and intellectual characteristics. Based on 15 years experience in delivering complex projects for public sector clients, we set out below eight characteristics of excellence to look for in our Project Managers:
Great communicators: Excellent project managers are able to create authentic support for their project’s aspirations by helping team members and other stakeholders develop an emotional link with the project’s narrative.
Listeners, not tellers: Think great project managers are those that shout the loudest and talk the most? In fact, great Project Managers are great listeners. They are able to generate insight through listening and use this to manage projects through effective relationship management.
Agents of change: Projects create change. Excellent Project Managers instinctively enjoy the thrill and uncertainty that comes with change and are adverse to long periods of predictability. For most, job satisfaction comes through impact rather than title.
Cool heads: no project goes 100% to plan and no team delivers without its challenges. Excellent project managers are able to keep in control in the most difficult project situations. They are emotionally prepared to handle project issues and are able to maintain a sense of control when others start to panic.
Good learners: excellent project managers bring lessons from their last project to the next. Their “unique value” is less on their technical ability to document lessons learnt but more on their emotional capability to apply these in every new project environment.
“Magnets” of recognition: Excellent project managers are “naturally” recognised by their peers as project leaders. Not because of their title, but because of their character and ability to apply their knowledge in an effective manner.
Ethical decision-makers: Excellent project managers rate “soft” personal success criteria such as the impact of their work higher than “harder” criteria such as remuneration and contract terms. They place great emphasis on their professional legacy and their role in “making things better”.
Politically clever: Excellent project managers have a high degree of political nous. They are great in understanding the political environment they operate in and are able to form alliances, negotiate and bargain effectively to achieve outcomes.