3 Essential Traits of Good Project Managers

Written By: Mike Ganske

3 Essential Traits of a Good Project Manager

Project managers possess many quality traits, but these 3 are essential.

All project managers are NOT created equal. Some are more schedule-focused, while others are more budget-driven. Some spend more time on procurement management, and yet others concentrate on ensuring scope creep doesn’t occur. Some spend too much time trying to do everything, while others spend no time doing anything. Regardless of what a project manager emphasizes or how he or she runs a project, I’ve found that all good project managers have these three essential traits.

Thinking On Their Feet

Whether communicating with customers or working with vendors, this ability is a must. There are times when a project manager is thrown into a situation, and the ability to react fast is critical to determining a successful outcome. I’ve seen times when customers ask those unforeseen questions, and without being able to think quickly, this situation could lead to dissatisfaction on their part. Coming up with the right answer fast is key.

Decision Making

This may seem like an obvious one, but that isn’t always the case. You see, members of a project need direction. Most of the time they don’t need or want to be inundated with project decisions. They want clear direction on how to do their job, and as project managers, it is our job to do this. However, not all decisions are easy, and not all decisions have right or wrong choices, either. While making your choice based on facts is ideal, sometimes just making a decision is the right move. If you don’t make a decision, time may make one for you.

The “X” Factor

This is a trait which is hard to explain. As defined by dictionary.com, the X factor is, “a hard-to-describe influence or quality; an important element with unknown consequences.” This is the unique trait that one carries, and when he or she does, you know they can “get it done.” It’s not that they have charisma, good looks, or a silver tongue. It’s not that they scored a 36 on their ACT exam. It lies more in their will to succeed, their drive to be a great project manager, their relentless pursuit of perfection.

I was once caught off guard by an interviewee who asked, “What are the three essential traits of a good project manager?” Without giving it much thought, I rattled off these three. At the time, I thought my response was good enough to suffice as an answer, but when I had time to reflect on it, I realized it was more than sufficient. Good project managers have many other quality traits, but these three make the great project managers stand out from the others.

Here are some additional resources for becoming a better project manager, or take a look at some of our related blog articles listed below.

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