If you work in a company with deliverables requiring project management, you know how pertinent a project manager is to the success of your project.

A great project manager is more than a taskmaster. They must see the big picture and minute details of a project’s execution. They also oversee internal communication between teammates and external communication with clients. 

That’s a lot of responsibility! 

Let’s establish a shared definition of project management. Toggl Plan defines project management as “the process by which a project is planned, tracked, controlled, and reported.”

Project managers are those on your team responsible for this process. They plan and execute the project with a team.

At OpMentors, we couldn’t help our clients maximize their solutions without the excellent work of our project managers. We’ve noticed some marks common among great project managers, and today we’re sharing them with you. 

Here’s the good news: anyone can grow in these areas if you’re willing to learn! 

1. A great project manager is a servant leader.

Great project managers are what we call “servant leaders.” Dave Russell, one of our project managers at OpMentors, describes a servant leader this way: “A servant leader puts the needs of the team ahead of their own. Their primary goal is to enable the success of the team by ensuring they have everything they need and removing impediments that stand in the way.”

Being a servant leader is crucial to the success of any project because, as a project manager, you’re responsible for assigning tasks, setting deadlines, and communicating between your team and the client. 

Think of yourself as a team advocate. 

What does servant leadership look like in practice? Here are a few ideas.

First, When planning the execution of a project, you’ll want to confirm your team’s bandwidth for the project to make sure deadlines are realistic. 

Second, you’ll want to make sure team members have everything they need to complete the project from you and the client

Third, practice active listening. Active listening is “the ability to focus completely on a speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information and respond thoughtfully.” Active listening encourages team members to collaborate and speak up when a project hits a snag. 

One practical way to make sure you’re actively listening to team members is to repeat back what they’ve told you and ask if you’ve understood them correctly. This helps you respond in a way that serves those you oversee.  

2. A great project manager can see the big picture and manage small details.

In a single word, project managers must be organized.

Project managers oftentimes are managing multiple projects at once, and strong project managers will execute all of them within a given time, scope, and budget. To achieve those goals, they must be able to see the big picture of a project while giving special care and attention to the details. 

The way a project manager plans and executes a project will vary by company and industry. But you should have a process by which you divide your project’s roadmap into phases. Each phase will have its own deadline when you’ll deliver something concrete to the client. Once team members have confirmed these deadlines, everyone should make every effort to meet that deadline. 

How a project will be executed is just as important as who will do what and when.

Evaluate your current processes and see where they can improve. Then normalize your team’s methodology and tools as much as possible across projects so the big picture and details of a project remain intact. To accomplish this, our team utilizes FinancialForce PSA, a project manager’s best friend! Our project managers and FinancialForce PSA combined ultimately drive the success of OpMentors projects.

When a project does go off course, here’s a good plan of attack:

  1. Halt work on the project.
  2. Identify the root cause(s). 
  3. Review the project’s original objectives and documentation.
  4. Update current activities and deadlines based on your findings with approval from your teammates and client.
  5. Restart the project with changes in place to ensure success. 

A project has a great chance for success when a project manager creates a plan and executes it with streamlined processes and excellent tools. 

3. A great project manager develops strong communication skills.

We intentionally used the word “develops” here instead of “has.” 

That’s because strong communication skills are not inborn. Great project managers are always learning how to improve their communication skills. 

We already mentioned active listening to effectively communicate with team members. Creating agendas for meetings is another way to communicate well and serve those you lead. Agendas provide a plan for productive collaboration when projects are on track and when they aren’t. 

OpMentors Project Manager Kelsey Gibson, said, “I try to ensure the meetings I’m having with the team have an agenda, and we’re actively discussing what challenges we see coming while strategizing for current issue resolution. Keeping everything visible and top of mind when it comes to potential challenges is helpful.” 

Make sure everyone also knows their role in the big picture and small details of a project’s execution. You’d be surprised how many many employees feel they don’t know exactly what their responsibilities are. If team members don’t know your expectations, they’re probably frazzled and stressed, and you’re frustrated because you’re not getting what you need from them. 

Overcommunicate. Then foster an environment where teammates feel they can ask clarifying questions if needed. 

Lastly, great communication requires healthy conflict. No one likes conflict, but conflict-avoidant teams don’t make progress on projects. 

Kelsey offered her advice on healthy conflict to project managers: “Learn to have thick skin. You’re steering the ship. If a teammate puts a hole in the ship, you’re responsible for it. Pro tip: come to the meeting about the hole in the ship with a patch and a resolution.” 

Whether internally with teammates or externally with clients, address problems head on with transparency and honesty. 

4. Great project managers bring a spirit of trust and encouragement to the team. 

Employees usually don’t like to be micromanaged. 

Great project managers understand team members need a balance between autonomy and oversight. 

Team members need enough oversight so they stick to the project’s plan of execution. But they also need enough autonomy so they don’t feel micromanaged. When you as a project manager micromanage, team members can feel like you don’t trust them and their ability to do their part.

However, you bring a spirit of trust and confidence to the team when you find this balance as a leader. 

Great project managers also recognize the good work their team does. 

It’s easy to criticize. Team members will take note when you praise them for their efforts. Your team will work harder when you recognize what they get right — not just what they get wrong.

Consider ways to celebrate with your team too when you hit milestones on a project’s roadmap. Milestones are deadlines for each phase of a project. Come up with creative ways to celebrate your team’s success and recognize their contributions.   

As a project manager, you’ll boost team morale when you bring a spirit of trust and encouragement to the office. You’ll never know the impact it might have on a person too. 

Project management is a hard job, but these characteristics are great aspirations for project managers seeking to learn and grow. Our team at OpMentors can also help if you’re looking to improve your processes for planning, tracking, controlling, and reporting your team’s projects. Schedule a call today, and let’s talk about how FinancialForce and Salesforce provide solutions for your project management needs. 

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