What Do Great Project Managers Do that Average Project Managers Don't?

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A participant in one of our discussions sessions in the PMP preparation classes asked the above question. I have to state that, if the question had been “what do good project managers do that poor project managers don’t?” it would have elicited a totally different response, but because the questions asked was; “What do great project managers do that average project managers don’t? There is a demand that I make the distinction between average and poor project managers, even as I answer the question, because there is a world of difference between the two.

The average project manager does “everything on the list.” The differences however are that:

1.    They just don’t do it as well as the great project manager
2.    They do not prioritize like the great project manager

The Easy Part:
Most project managers know the transactional nuts and bolts of a project: developing a plan, monitoring, data gathering, controlling progress, deployment of resources and so forth. They are the easy part of being a project manager, and it’s easy to hide in the “activities” of the above.

The Harder Part:
The best project managers take it a step further. They understand the politics of their projects and the organization within which it sits. They know how to ask questions and listen hard, to determine priorities, agendas and the objectives of their stakeholders. They are skilled influencers, able to cajole, persuade and call in favours to make things happen. They have a good mix of soft skills to go with their technical skills in making things happen.

The best project managers – what we refer to in this context as great project managers are really project leaders. They know how to inspire, engage, and develop their project teams. They get a kind of loyalty and enthusiasm that money cannot buy, in both good times and bad times. I should develop another article soon to deal with how to become an Excellent Project Leader.

And then the Sweet Stuff:
The great part is that becoming a great and excellent project leader, much more than being a project manager, is a skill that can be learned. The subsequent articles I intend to write on this would perhaps address this question in depth, picking on seven vital areas and the skills you should develop to produce results in these areas.

Look forward to these new sets of articles: you’ll be glad you did.