During a recent job interview I was asked, “What are the three most important characteristics of a project manager?”
Having never been asked this question before, I listed the first three things that came to mind. I think I answered it well, but this question stayed with me for several days. There are so many important skills that project managers should have that it’s hard to pinpoint the top three. That said, below I’ve listed a number of traits that I feel are important:
– Project managers should be enthusiastic about their projects. PMs are leaders, and the project team can easily take its cue from the PM. If the PM is upbeat, energetic and optimistic about the project, the team is likely to be as well.
– Project managers are team builders, especially on the long-term projects. They conduct team building activities, manage conflict and set ground rules to keep meetings moving. Teams often go through different stages of development, and team building is an important aspect to running a successful project.
– Project managers should be well organized. Projects have a lot of moving parts. The PMBOK guide 5th edition lists 47 processes that may occur on a single project (and I’ve heard there will be more in the 6th edition). With so many moving parts, an unorganized project is bound to fail.
– Project managers are leaders. PMs led project teams to success. We are not co-coordinators. We’re ingrained in the project and invested in its outcome. This forces us to lead. (It’s important to note that there are many different types of leadership methods and styles.)
– Project managers should be adaptable. We live in a global workforce, with different customs, cultures and norms. What may succeed in the United States, may be unacceptable in Europe or Asia. This can be challenging, especially when you consider virtual project teams with different team members throughout the world. This is one example of how PMs need to be able to adapt to different circumstances.
– Project managers should be strategic. It’s important to look forward and identify opportunities and threats, then analyze and determine what opportunities you should capitalize on and what threats you should seek to avoid or mitigate.
– Project managers should be proactive. They should take action to address opportunities and threats quickly and efficiently. PMs should roll up their sleeves and not be scared to get their hands dirty when it’s needed.
– Project managers should be strong communicators. With so many stakeholders, PMs need to be both strong verbal and written communicators.
– Project managers should be ethical. This may seem like a no brainer, but there are many places in the world where ethics is a concern. Having strong ethics enables PMs to make the right choices for their projects and project teams.
If I’m ever asked this question again, I’ll easily have more than three answers to provide. The ones I said during the interview where:
– A project manager needs to be organized.
– A project manager needs strong people skills.
– A project manager needs to be proactive in addressing concerns and anticipating needs.
I haven’t gotten this job yet, but I still may. I’ll update this post either way. UPDATE: I got the job 🙂
How would you answer this question? Please feel free to leave a comment below.