great project manager

In Part 1 of this two-part series on making good project managers great, we examined the concepts/traits of putting the customer first, having integrity, and having a very good handle on the always challenging task of scope management.  In this second part, we’ll look at three more of my main list of six things that help differentiate a great project manager from a good one.

4) Communication is #1.

I can’t stress this one enough.  Communication is the most important task the project manager is responsible for.  It drives meetings, meeting management, decision-making, task delegation, methodology enforcement, customer engagement, requirements planning, status reviews, informal calls and emails, formal calls and emails, and just about anything else that happens on a daily basis on your projects.  I once had a business analyst on one of my projects tell me that he gets more emails from me than from any other project manager he was working with.  That made me feel good.  I knew I wasn’t overloading him with nonsense because I sent out emails to keep everyone up to date, not to fill their inboxes with trivia.  It was stuff they needed to know.  I did ask him if he thought that was a good thing…and thankfully he said yes.  I am in no way trying to say that I fall into the “great” category.  But I do believe that the great ones have the best handle on the fact that efficient and effective communication is the true driver for successful outcomes on projects – as well as satisfied customer and engaged team members.

5) Decision-making.

All project managers must make decisions on and for the project’s they are managing.  And they are often expected to make those decisions with less than adequate information and sometimes the decisions must be made on the spot and with the potential for significant impact on the project, the team and the customer.  Good project managers can handle this and do so with a decent amount of confidence – reaching out to others for additional help and information when necessary.  And yes, knowing their own limitations so as to push back when the decision is too big to make for the information they are lacking or the knowledge and experience they may not have available to them.  And that is ok.  Great project managers do the same – and even push back if they don’t feel comfortable.  However, their confidence level is a bit higher and their overall knowledge level and expertise is usually higher – placing this pushback threshold higher.  Meaning, they are able to handle more difficult decision making situations without throwing in the towel…with an end result of getting more stuff down more quickly., but with a little more confidence, and a little more swagger.

6) Project process flow.

This is a bit out there, but it refers the ability to control the overall flow of the project.  Good project managers can control the flow to a point – following the specified project management methodology carefully.  The great ones know when to flex without feeling guilty or without thinking they are taking the project off course.  The great ones know when a particular situation – or project customer – warrants a deviation from the norm in order to get things done and keep the project moving forward.  Both are ok, but the great project manager who can flex on the fly may get through issues without calling in outside help simply by using superior negotiations skills or having the ability to see things at a higher level and understanding that a change in the process or flow of the project needs to happen…either permanently or just at the present time.


In the long run, there aren’t too many bad project managers left hanging around at the end of the day.  Why?  They get weeded out. They struggle, get forced off a project and replaced, take on other projects and fail and eventually find a new profession.  Most are very good.  Some are great.  And I think the six concepts or skills that I’ve presented here help separate the good ones from the great ones.  I welcome your input as to other skills – soft or otherwise – that help separate the great PMs from the rest of the field. Improve your project management delivery with TeamHeadquarters.