Project management is one of the most demanding job roles in the world of construction. Project managers are ultimately responsible for the results of every job they oversee, and they can only be successful by effectively coordinating and facilitating the success of their team members. Project managers are the glue that holds a project together – the single unifying force that ensures all assets on a project are mobilized towards completing the project on-time and on budget.
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15 Qualities of a Good Project Manager
The best construction project managers regularly display the intelligence, attitude and soft skills that are required to achieve success in this demanding field. In this article, we highlight our picks for the top 15 qualities of a good project manager. Whether you’re hiring a project manager for your own construction company, or looking to step into a project management role yourself, these are the qualities you want to develop and nourish to help facilitate long-term project management success.
A Good Project Manager Inspires Team Members
Construction projects can go on for months and face delays and challenges that affect subcontractors and other team members. Whatever the situation while on the job site, a project managers construction company rely on their project managers to come into the office and lead projects with vision and passion each and every day. Good project managers are inspiring leaders whose work ethic and attention-to-detail rubs off on those around them. These all-star performers understand how to lead by example – they show up to the office early, leave late, and exude passion and verve in between.
Good project managers also understand that their mood, demeanor and actions can set the tone for the project, the project team and even their company. When things are going well and everyone is happy, a project manager knows it’s time to keep everyone on track by focusing on the details that others might be missing. When a project encounters an obstacle, good project managers take a relentlessly positive attitude towards overcoming it. Good project managers set the tone at the workplace rather than allow the tone to be set by negative circumstances or the attitudes of others.
A Good Project Manager Communicates Effectively
Communication is one of the most important aspects of the project manager role. Project managers must constantly be communicating with contractors, subcontractors, vendors and suppliers, accounting, members of the design team, executives and project stakeholders. A good project manager understands the need for consistent and effective communications and works to maintain open lines of communication and bring people together when a problem requires input from multiple stakeholders.
Effective project management doesn’t just mean keeping communication open however, it means using that communicate effectively to get the job done. Good project managers know how to facilitate productive meetings and build group consensus on key issues through guided discussions.
Still, a good project manager knows how to strike a balance between maintaining open lines of communication and positive relationships within the team while pushing the project forward to its conclusion. Good project managers focus each conversation on advancing the goals of the project, whether by obtaining stakeholder approval for a required modification to the building plan, or by communicating expectations to a contractor or subcontractor.
A Good Project Manager Knows How to Delegate
The ability to delegate tasks is important for all project managers, but especially so in the construction business where job tasks are so diverse that a range of professionals and tradespeople is required to complete them all. The ability to effectively delegate tasks is closely connected to an understanding of value delivery that all good project managers have. These managers understand that they can most efficiently deliver value to the project by sticking to their own roles and allowing others to do the same.
Good project managers avoid getting too focused on a narrow aspect of the project, as it might take their attention away from the big picture and cause them to miss something important. Delegation is a tool that effective project managers use to accomplish more each day while maintaining their focus on the overall project and its performance with respect to timeline and budget requirements.
A Good Project Manager is Bottom-Line Oriented
As a wise man once said, the best way to achieve success within an organization is to align your own goals with the goals and objectives of the organization to which you belong.
For the best project managers, this means focusing on the most important indicators of project success:
-Was the project completed on time?
-Was the project completed on budget?
-Was the project profitable for the company?
If a project manager demonstrates great soft skills but fails to deliver tangible results, it is impossible to say that they are reaching their potential. Good project managers understand that success means delivering results, and that skills like problem solving, communication and teamwork are tools that they can use to achieve the results they want.
A Good Project Manager is Honest
When we think about honesty and project managers, it isn’t so much that the best project managers always tell the truth (although they do), it’s that they’re willing to give their honest opinion even when it isn’t what someone else wants to hear.
Delivering bad news to a customer or a superior manager is never a fun experience, but it shows strength of character when a project manager can give an honest report about why a delay happened, what issues are affecting logistics, why a certain aspect of the building plan is no longer feasible and needs to be changed.
Good project managers are comfortable having difficult conversations and tackling problems head-on, and they actually save time and add value by quickly addressing and solving problems rather than allowing them to fester and trigger more delays.
A Good Project Manager is Accountable
Accountability is an important concept for every project manager to understand – it can make the difference between routinely finishing projects on time and consistently struggling to meet project deadlines.
Not only are effective project managers accountable for their actions and results, they also know how to hold others accountable for their contributions, work ethic and attention to detail. This creates a project culture where excellence is expected, deadlines are respected and things tend to get done on time.
Holding staff and team members accountable for their performance begins with setting expectations. The most important set of expectations that project managers use is the project schedule, which essentially contains job and work expectations for everyone who works on the project. A good project manager holds every person accountable for doing their part on schedule, which in turn ensures that the project finishes on time.
A Good Project Manager is a Good Problem Solver
Project managers play an important role in the ability of the construction company to respond to an unforeseen scenario and potentially avoid a delay. Project managers have the ability to make decisions and implement actions that coordinate many project assets towards a specific objective, and a good project manager knows how to allocate resources efficiently towards solving a problem.
Problem-solving doesn’t just mean “thinking on the fly” and quickly creating a solution when a crisis happens, it also encompasses the practice and discipline of crisis preparation. Good project managers have lists of backup subcontractors they can call on if a scheduled crew doesn’t show up. They have backup vendors and suppliers ready in case the chosen supplier can’t deliver. They have a backup schedule created if the existing one falls behind. Good project managers understand the value of contingency planning, and they spend time and effort to make sure they aren’t caught off-guard when something changes unexpectedly.
A Good Project Manager is a Great Team Builder
There’s a big difference between a team player and a team builder. Team players understand how to be part of a unit that functions together towards a goal – they know how to embrace and embody their individual role to make the biggest possible contribution. Good project managers have to be excellent team players – that’s how they started their development into phenomenal team builders.
A team builder is someone who understands how to get people working together, collaborating and sharing ideas. They understand that the project stakeholders will either fail together or succeed together, and that project performance is optimized when everyone is pushing in the same direction. Good project managers understand how to unite their team members towards a common goal and develop a sense of morale while maintaining a space to recognize individual contributions and opinions. Good project managers help their teams reach consensus faster by facilitating effective discussions.
A Good Project Manager Gives Credit to Others
If you’re a sports fan, think about what it’s like watching the manager of your favorite team at the press conference after the game. Most of the time, they take a highly formulaic approach to how they address the media. If the team won, the manager gives them all the credit, praises the performance, and congratulates the team on a job well done. If the team lost, the manager takes ownership of the loss himself, blames his own strategic preparation, or if he’s lucky, scapegoats the referee.
Good project managers don’t place the blame on outside circumstances when things don’t go their way, but they do share credit with their team members and sing their praises when a project is completed successfully. Good project managers know that giving credit to team members conveys a sense of appreciation and fulfillment that raises their job satisfaction, makes them easier to retain, and improves working relationships for the future. A good project manager sees the long-term value in recognizing contributions from others, with the understanding that their own achievements will be noticed by the people that matter.
A Good Project Manager is Knowledgeable
However you slice it, it’s imperative for project managers in the construction business to develop industry knowledge alongside their business knowledge in order to succeed. One of the key aspects of the project management role is the combined understanding of business and project objectives. Project managers who know little about the industry in which they operate find themselves relying on others for crucial input on how to solve problems – they lack the technical understanding to work through the problem on their own.
Project managers can benefit from specializing in managing a specific type of construction project, increasing their familiarity with projects of a certain type and giving them more insight into the associated construction techniques. Good project managers also spend time researching best practices and improving their own methodologies for getting things done.
A Good Project Manager Sees the Big Picture
Construction projects are complex from beginning to end, and good project managers understand the need to position themselves at the center of that complexity in order to see the big picture. Consider a municipal works project to construct a bridge – there are construction requirements for the bridge that are necessary to make it safe and effective for operation, there are deadlines that must be met to keep other infrastructure projects on schedule and there are also business needs for the construction company – to meet quarterly revenue projections, to make a profit, etc.
A good project manager operates at the highest level of oversight with respect to the project, but they see the connections between the stakeholders and understand the broad implications of even the smallest decision on the job site. The contractor might say “Can we use these cheaper screws?” and it’s the project manager’s job to understand how that impacts long-term liability, job profitability and how it meshes with the engineering requirements. Good project managers see the big consequences that small decisions can have.
A Good Project Manager Learns from Their Mistakes
Good project managers may jump quickly from one project to the next, seeking to maximize their organizational impact and thrive under the pressure to perform. At the same time, the best project managers take time to reflect on their performance in past projects, evaluate themselves, and look for opportunities to learn from their mistakes.
Good project managers reflect on the challenges they faced and ask themselves the tough questions:
-What could I have done to make this project more profitable?
-Did I handle that discussion the right way? Did I achieve the desired outcome? What could I have done differently?
-How would I rate my response to the delays on the last project? What would I do differently next time?
-What feedback would I give myself on my own performance?
-What contingency plans should I develop for my next project to help avoid delays?
A Good Project Manager Demonstrates Integrity
The concept of integrity covers many aspects that are crucial to the project manager role. Integrity means reliability – good project managers can be trusted by everyone around them to keep their word and deliver on their obligations. That means that construction companies can trust them to align with the goals of the organization and focus on delivering results on time and on budget. It also means that their colleagues can trust them to keep commitments, meet deadlines and follow up when required. It also means that project owners can count on them to communicate in a timely fashion about anything important to the project.
Good project managers understand that keeping their word and demonstrating follow-through are the best ways to build trust and maintain strong working relationships and an atmosphere of respect with colleagues.
A Good Project Manager is Calm Under Pressure
Construction project management can be a stressful field sometimes – you’re working on a big project for a huge company, you’ve never done something quite like this before, and there are site condition delays, and then there are rain delays, and then there are supply chain delays, then labor shortages, and you’re worried about the schedule, and your to-do list never seems to get shorter – that’s life as a project manager sometimes.
Good project managers understand how to organize, prioritize and focus on what they can control each day. They work the long hours required to deliver results and prioritize tasks effectively, but they also know how to “switch off” after a long day and get the mental rest needed to perform again the next day.
A Good Project Manager is Continuously Improving
Everyone in society either has a “fixed mentality” or a “growth mentality“. Those with a fixed mentality believe that they simply are the way that they are, and that change is difficult or impossible. In contrast, good project managers maintain a growth mindset at all times. They understand that they are not perfect, that they will make mistakes, and that sometimes things will go wrong. At the same time, they realize that they are qualified and worthy of success and that they can actually learn from their mistakes and do better next time. This understanding gives them the mental strength to cope with the stress and pressure of a job that demands results.
Good project managers value continuous improvement, not just for themselves, but for the organization. Good project managers drive organizational improvements by innovating best practices, implementing new tools to increase efficiency and regularly setting goals to improve results.
A good project manager makes the difference between a project team that routinely delivers results and one that struggles to perform. The best project managers exhibit traits that make them effective leaders: they can grow a team, facilitate honest communication, solve problems and hold others accountable.
They also work to see the big picture while focusing on the bottom line, and they align their own goals with those of the company to become ideal ambassadors and representatives of the business. Good project managers delegate tasks effectively while making themselves the hub of communication and coordination for the project.
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