Throughout my projects with Abraic, I have worked with quite a few project managers. And while some were first-rate, others had a little catching up to do. Below are my observations on what makes an IT project manager great.

It boils down to two key areas – vision and emotional intelligence.

Great Project Managers Have Vision

Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. 

Attention to detail is important, but don’t let it rule all your time. Keep an eye on the overall plan, and anticipate adjustments as necessary. No one likes surprises when it comes to project plans, and a great PM should hone their projections to mitigate timeline risk well in advance.

Treat the project timeline as a living document.

Too often project managers shy away from schedule adjustments, even in the face of valid challenges that will affect timing. A timing adjustment today may avoid a serious headache next month.

Always consider risks.

If a critical business area is underrepresented in the core team, the PM should raise the alarm. Whatever the risk may be, express your concerns, and guide the decision makers to the best conclusion.

Remember who the project will impact.

Some IT projects are invisible to end users – but others transform their day-to-day workflow. Make time to keep end users in the loop. And if training is required, don’t be afraid to get involved, whether it’s scheduling help or leading sessions.

Use your bird’s eye view to reduce waste.

As a PM, you should have an idea of the tasks and assignments in progress among your team. If you notice duplication of effort or non-value-adding activities, redirect the work as soon as possible. Try to catch these cases before your team does to reduce feelings of frustration.

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Great Project Managers Have Emotional Intelligence

Build cohesion.

The people on your project may not be used to working with each other. If the team is cross-functional, or perhaps includes resources from multiple vendors, a little effort can go a long way toward making everyone feel at home.

Diversify your motivational techniques.

Read up on how to motivate people. While pressure and oversight might work for some, it will lower morale and alienate others. Monitor the team’s mood and apply motivation strategies accordingly. Something as simple as a Starbucks gift card for the person who discovers the most issues in user testing might have a great effect.

Lead by example.

If the team sees the PM hitting all their deadlines, it will help foster a high-performance culture.

Communicate face-to-face.

While onsite, there is no excuse for a PM to be hidden at a desk all day. A great PM makes rounds daily, checking in on important tasks, and offering assistance. Don’t forget to connect on a personal level – establishing positive relationships with your team members will make people happy to see you, which makes it much easier to ask about tasks. And it makes working together more enjoyable.

Take ownership.

For a PM, ownership doesn’t end in MS Project. A great PM will admit and own a mistake. There is always a way to deflect fault, but a great PM won’t blame the team for something that’s really a leadership issue.

Vision and emotional intelligence are intentionally practiced by great PMs. They are not necessarily innate characteristics but a product of deliberately cultivating habits, like the above, for the benefit of the project.

Start your practice of being a great PM by focusing on one or two areas of improvement per month until they become second nature, and move up from there.

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