Becoming an Effective Project Manager – Natural Talent or Hard Work?

About two weeks ago, a friend and I talked about my blog topic Project Management. I remember I told him what I write about and how it really starts intriguing me the deeper I dig into it. The enthusiasm for PM did not seem to be mutual and it in fact didn’t take too long until he made a comment to the effect that he wouldn’t believe it took a lot to become a Project Manager, someone who organizes a little bit here and there. His comment has actually incentivized me to write this post about the required qualities of Project Managers to successfully manage a project.

What is a Project Manager?

It doesn’t take a lot to set up create a plain definition of a Project Manager: A Project Manager is supposed to manage projects. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It, indeed, requires a more sophisticated definition to eventually address and include all needed features, but it’s undoubtably a good platform to build up on. David Litten, accredited Project Management Trainer, encapsulates the important distinction to be made between a PM and others.

“Project managers need general management skills, along with a knack for problem solving. Project managers are there to plan and manage the work – NOT to do it! “

He mentiones the first, vitally important characteristic that indubitably distinguishes a PM from , for instance a specialist. Project Managers’ task is to plan, manage and organize the work, while a specialist creates the deliverables. PMs therefore need what David calls “management skills“, skills that are to some extend inherent or can be acquired in school/seminars etc.

Am I the Chosen One?

Especially a lot of young people that start dealing with the question “What will I be when I grow up?“, wonder if they have what it takes to be in a responsible, high position, in charge of many people, simply able to run a company. It’s a question you can’t answer unless you know what it DOES take to be in that position. Do you? When you ask this question to people they most likely nod their head but then come up with little, doubtful answers. I’ve therefore collected answers from PM experts that absolutely know what they’re talking about when they answer such a question.

What Qualities Do I Need?

Timothy R. Barry, president of InnerChange Learning Systems LLC thinks that an effective PM has a vision of where to go and the ability to articulate it.

“Visionaries thrive on change and being able to draw new boundaries. It was once said that a leader is someone who “lifts us up, gives us a reason for being and gives the vision and spirit to change.”

In order to properly articulate convey his vision, he needs to be a good commuicator and enthusiastically fulfil tasks. Leadership competence plays another big role in Timothy’s assumptions of a good PM. Being qualified and having experience are inevitable factors that not only contribute to a well structured and faster process but also arouse trust among employees. Timothy also mentiones, that a good PM has to be able to draw quick decisions and solve problems. He adds :

“In a perfect world, projects would be delivered on time, under budget and with no major problems or obstacles to overcome. But we don’t live in a perfect world – projects have problems.”

What kind of problems are likely to occur?

David Litten calls a spade a spade, as he distinguishes between 7 major sources that possibly result in problems/obstacles and whatsoever.

  • Interpersonal problems
  • Internal sources
  • External sources
  • Technical sources
  • Management sources
  • Communication
  • Opinions or perceptions

Managers need to get down to the root of the trouble and find ways to identify, solve and prevent problems from happening.

How Can I Prepare Myself for the Real Life?

If you are new to PM, a great way to preparedly become a manager is to follow Josh Nankivel’s advices which he presents on his webpage. Josh suggests to go with real-life experience if you have to choose between a formal PM education or real-world experience.

“The optimal in my humble opinion is if you can be in a position where your projects are small enough that you have the flexibility to try out new concepts you are learning in real time.”

His advices remind me of the learning-by-doing concept because he proposes a PM-mentor to future Project Managers and encourages them to exactly pay attention when working with a PM expert. To not neglet the educational aspect, Josh motivates all those interested in PM to listen to podcasts, read books and blogs as well as to know the tools on market and to try to join a PM organization.

Wanna Get in Touch with a Star?

If there are any particular questions that aren’t answered explicitly, you can easily contact almost every PM expert via email or his/her website!

Notice, wheter the called qualities go for you or not, there is always a way to train and/or adopt any of them. You’ll find lots of seminars, books, training courses, and individual help online. Good luck and know that nothing is impossible!

Project Management – May I Help You Master Your Challenges?

Last week I wrote about the biggest challenges in PM. I collected answers of 10 of the top PM experts in order to comprehend what project managers have to be aware of to successfully run a project. I thought it’d been an informatory and adventurous experience and it, in fact, urged me to get once more in touch with the same experts, on a quest to find their holy answers to the challenges.

There is Always Good and Bad

David Blumhorst, Vice President at Daptiv, calls hitting the business target, PM’s biggest challenge. He holds Project Management liable for meeting business targets and believes that a good Project Manager differs from others due to his quality to make decisions about if the project is really on track to meet the business targets.

Get Trained to Triumph

Josh Nankivel criticises bad-defined scopes as they cause schedule and cost overruns. He encourages Project Managers to take their time so as to create a clear and concise definition of the deliverables. Work-breakdown structures are vitally important and need to be well-prepared. He believes that it’s something you can learn and adopt to as he initiated a training program for Project Managers where they learn how to get rid of the lack of their work-breakdown structures.

Stay up to Date with Updates! 

Education and qualification are aspects where Jason Westland and Elizabeth Harrin spot defects. They are convinced that PM needs to be a “full discipline“, something that requires a lot of study and training. Due to the quickly changing world, Project Managers should ensure to constantly update their knowledge in order to have a sophisticated view on the different aspects PM includes.

Don’t Forget you are a Human, not a Robot

To Ron Holohan and Mark Horstmann, communication is the biggest challenge PM faces today. According to them, Project Managers should try to implement a well-balanced use of technological and human resources in their projects. A steady interaction and communication with your team members is inevitable and something that can not be replaced by technology. PM-software offers great features that accelerate and often simplify processes and the right use of these features possibly results in an advantage for the whole team. Always be aware though, that Software can also lead to misunderstandings and result in a complication of circumstances. In this context I would like to quote Soma Bhattacharia once more. She says:”no matter what tools we got […] at the end of the day you have to work with your team”, and suggests to know who you work with and what you can do to create a pleasant atmosphere.

A Compliment a Day Keeps the Notice of Termination Away

Ressources Management, as mentioned before, is a big challenge. Margaret Meloni critices the continued push to get everyone to do more with less. To avoid a self-contained and awful atmosphere she advises to take time for employees as well as for yourself. Managers should interact with their team members and show them, that they are appreciated to increase their self esteem.

Pass On Responsibility!

In my last post I furthermore mentioned Tom Mochal’s opinion on the biggest challenge which is a lack of functional reports. He assumes that, in order to prevent this from happening, managers should have assigned people validate the enddate and buy into the enddate. That way they are obligated to tell you if they can’t make it, as soon as they know. Tom additionally entrusts Managers to assure to have reliable, responsible and passionate reporters around them.

How Do you Create Passion Though?

The last challenge I wrote about was Mark Perry’s maintenance of passion. He presents 10 great tips that, in the long run, help you master the challenge!

  1. integrate passion to your work
  2. eliminate irritating tasks
  3. reacquaint yourself with your career
  4. be grateful to all those who helped you
  5. surround yourself with passionate and motivated people
  6. recognize your passion
  7. expect and encounter negativism
  8. “a book a week keeps passion from getting weak”
  9. spread the word
  10. have faith in your passion

All of these essential advices can help Project Managers to overcome challenges and obstacles. Eventually there is a wide range of supervisors and tons of software that aims to solve these challenges in collaboration with Project Managers. But what I have discovered, and what we can also gather from the experts’ answers, is that it only takes a little bit of humanity to master the majority of the problems.