- Firstly, to be willing to think. It takes real mental effort to work out what it is you want to achieve, and the best way to achieve it. Good project managers think before leaping.
- Secondly, to be action orientated. Thinking is important, but delivery is about getting things done.
- Thirdly, to be outcome focussed. Action is good, but it’s also about getting the right things done. Staying focussed on the desired outcome is essential to effective delivery.
- Fourthly, to be structured: structure is important in that it helps to do everything required in the most appropriate way.
- Fifthly, to be always thinking about the future. Now is always important on a project, but so is the way forward. What are the next steps, and what might get in the way of achieving them?
There are lots more characteristics that are important too - such as perseverance and creativity, but these are my top 5. Obviously, I am taking for granted some level of competency in project management processes, practices and tools.
Now, one possible response to this short list is surely this is not just true for project managers, but also for any other really productive members of a project team. I have to agree - so what is it specifically that makes great project managers? In addition to these 5 characteristics, great project managers bring that special combination of management and leadership skills that encourages, enhances and utilises these characteristics in all the other members of a project team. It is this combination of management and leadership skills that is the real secret to great project management.
If you want to find out more, I've written extensively about this in my books The Project Manager, Mastering the Art of Delivery, as well as in The Project Management Book.