Last week we started looking at the Top Ten Project Manager Traits and, in our first blog on this subject, we considered the first three of those traits which were:
Understanding, Planning/Foresight and Adaptability (see: www.project-risk-manager.com/blog/project-manager-traits-part-1).
This week we will consider the next three traits which are as follows:
Attention to Detail
Another cliché you will often hear in Project Management is, “The Devil is in the detail”. This is one cliché that I happily embrace, not only because it is true, but because of how often it occurs on projects. If there is one characteristic that has saved many a project from disaster, this has to be right up there. Good Project Managers have an almost uncanny ability to spot things that either don’t fit, or need to be exploited. It could be a contractual clause, an element of a safety plan, a schedule activity, design detail or just a figure in a report. Project Managers are seldom specialists in any one field, but what makes them good Project Managers is their ability not only to see the big picture, but also to spot the nuggets and nails in the woodpile. Projects are multi-faceted affairs, and keeping on top of them requires support from a good team of discipline specialists. However, the Project Manager is responsible for making sure that each of the disciplinary elements link together in the right formation, at the right time, all the time. Spotting a detail in any one of the discipline deliverables which may have a legal, logistical, contractual, design, safety, or other impact is not something that can always be caught at discipline level. Good Project Managers are aware of this and are therefore always on the lookout for the small things that can either trip up or benefit a project. One of my ex-colleagues (who also happens to fall into the “Excellent Project Manager” category) expresses this as “having a healthy level of paranoia”. While this may not be quite the same thing as having good attention to detail, it certainly helps in keeping one’s attention on the detail!
Good communication on projects is paramount. Be it communication between your clients and contractors, your own team, your sponsors, or any other stakeholders on the project. The bottom line is: Good Project Managers are good communicators, and that does not mean they are good talkers. There is a big difference between good talkers and good communicators. Good communicators do not waffle. They stick to the facts and they stick to the information that needs to be communicated. Period. One can often spot a bad Project Manager just by noting how much they say, and how much of what they say is neither relevant nor factual. That’s not to say there’s not a time or a place in Project Management for irrelevance, non-factual anecdotes and speculation. There certainly is, but those times and places are generally reserved for social, team-building, or other events conducive to more colourful discourse. Project meetings, briefings and reviews need to be relevant, factual and to the point. One of the luxuries projects seldom have is time, and few things are more time wasteful than sitting in a meeting where you are either not needed or the subject matter is neither relevant nor factually based. In Part 1 of this blog, I mentioned that one of the key principles in project management was to “Keep it Simple”. This principle extends to communication. The simpler you keep it, the more your communication will be understood, remembered and actioned correctly.
Otherwise known as “Energy”. Projects thrive on energy, and a Project Manager who is passionate about their assignment will impart this energy to the rest of their team, clients, contractors, sponsors and other stakeholders alike. There is no substitute for passion. Look at any successful sports team, venture, business or social event and the common denominator for its success (necessary skill sets aside) will be the passion, or energy, of the team and individuals involved. Not only does passion instil energy, but it also instils belief, and belief is an essential ingredient in the successful outcome of any undertaking. People will go to great lengths to highlight their educational qualifications, skills and experience on their résumés, but whenever I have interviewed anyone for a job, one of the first things I look for in them is their level of enthusiasm/passion/energy. Everything else can be learned, but passion comes from within. If a person is not passionate about what they do, that doesn’t mean they won’t succeed, as they may still have the necessary skills and experience to get them there, but they will struggle to excel. This attribute is even more important in Project Managers, Business Leaders and Team Sport Captains, as it is their passion that acts as one of the primary motivators for the rest of their team, and instils the belief of success not only in the team but also in everyone else involved, be it client, contractor, sponsor or any other stakeholder.
Next week we will look at the final four of my top ten Project Manager character traits, which are: Logic, Discipline, Resolve and Resilience.
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