6 Attributes of a Rock Star Project Manager
Who wouldn’t want the life of a rock star? You get to stay up late every night and sleep in all morning. You tour the world on your private plane and fancy buses. You go from one party to the next, get paid millions of dollars each year, and have tens of thousands of fans screaming out your name. What’s there not to love (besides of course, short-life spans, no private life, and broken marriages?)
We won’t so much focus on the downside of the rock star life, but more along the lines of the screaming fans and millions of dollars each year. What then, are some of the attributes you should possess that can put you in this category of the project manager who achieves rock star status? That is, the project manager who stands out from everyone else around them based upon their skills, abilities, talent and experience.
The following six attributes may put you in this category. Just be sure to crank them WAY UP!
1. Confidence Builder
The project manager that is a rock star instills confidence in other people. You can tell by the project manager’s swagger. They have a certain way they walk. They lower their voice a notch or two when they talk business. They exude “been there, done that” and people feel comfortable with them being in the lead. Confidence is not to be confused with arrogance, but rather an attitude that everything is going to be alright.
Seriously, would you want to follow someone who was anything less than confident? This is not to say that the project manager who is a rock star has the answer to everything or their projects don’t get into trouble. However, they don’t overreact to such situations and methodically figure out a way to get to the best solution and decision.
2. Change Manager
A fact about every project is that there’s going to be change. It is next to impossible for a project to make it to completion without change entering the picture. These changes may range from something minor (a matter of personal preference) to something major (a key requirement may have been missed). The project manager that can adeptly manage change is one that will rise to the top in no time.
It’s up to you to expect change. Have processes and procedures in place when change occurs. Realize that it’s part of your job to roll with the changes that come your way. Do you have a change request form ready? Does the client understand that they can change things at any time, however it will cost additional money? Do internal stakeholders at your company understand that change typically extends timelines? Make sure you have all of this groundwork covered before changes occur and it will make managing the change process that much easier.
3. Exceptional Planner
The project manager that is a rock star is known for their stellar planning capabilities. Sure, we all know how to put a project plan together. That’s the cost of entry to the party. It is the exceptional project manager that has a plan for everything else as well. They don’t just plan out the details that will feed into the project plan, but they plan out the big picture as well. Which meetings need to take place? Where do they need to occur? Who needs to be there and how will they be run? They may come to realize that Sales need to get involved again in the project. They immediately put a plan in place to make that happen. This person can see both the forest for the trees and the trees for the forest, and this allows them to put the plan together at both a tactical and strategic level.
4. Outstanding Communicator
There are two extremes of project communicators. There are project managers that sit at their desks and unleash a cavalcade of emails with subject lines such as “Need Status”, “FYI”, or “Is this done yet?”. They rarely see their team face-to-face and feel that their job is simply to serve as a conduit for forwarding emails from one person to the next. Plus, they like the perceived security that having an audit trail affords them. This allows them to pull up a piece of paper and say “See…I told you about that”.
The second type is the project manager that rarely writes anything or sends any email, but knows the ins and outs of what is going on with the project because they are side by side with their project team. They know the issues, challenges, risks, and status as good as anyone on the team and exactly what needs to be done next. Their team knows they are in this together and have an increased level of trust due to the incessant communication that this project manager exercises.
The project manager that is a rock star leans more toward the second type…with just enough email and paper trail to keep things on track. They communicate up, down, and sideways within the organization. They listen WAY more than they talk. They ask questions for the sake of understanding deeply. They collaborate on solutions and get buy-in from (most) of the team prior to proceeding. Even if there are some on the team that do not agree with the project manager’s decision, they respect the fact that they listened and clearly communicated the reason why the decision was made.
5. Risk Mitigator
Arguably, one of the most important functions that a project manager serves is that of a risk mitigator. A risk is anything that might occur to a project that would prevent it from being completed on time and within budget. Isn’t it the project manager’s job to complete projects on time and within budget? That’s why I would consider it one of the most important functions they serve.
It is the exceptional project manager that looks under every rock for problems that could arise that would get their project off course. Are there enough resources? Have all the requirements been captured? Is there the possibility for another big project to come in and delay this project? What’s more, they put a contingency plan in place to deal with these risks in the event that they occur and become issues.
6. Problem Solver
What would a project be without problems? By definition, a project is a one-time endeavor with a clear beginning and end date. This means that it’s one of a kind, unique and this particular flavor of project hasn’t been done before. And there’s the problem. You don’t know what you don’t know and with each project is going to arise a fresh set of problems to deal with. The project manager that is a rock star navigates these problems with ease. They don’t get stressed and overexcited when problems occur. Neither do they get depressed and downtrodden when something goes wrong. Rather, they methodically work through the problem, find a good solution (doesn’t always need to be ‘the best’, many times good will suffice if it can be done quickly) and move on with getting things fixed.
While staying up late, sleeping all morning and going to party after party may not help your project management career, you can be a project manager rock star by displaying the above 6 attributes. If you are a confidence building, change managing, stellar planner who lets others know what is going on while avoiding risk and solving problems, then you are well on your way to a successful career.
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