5 characteristics of an excellent
IT Project Manager

Good IT project management requires a wide range of skills to lead processes and a few vital personal characteristics to succeed. Learn more about the specific competencies a good project manager should have and practice.

24. June 2021

An IT project manager needs to be well-versed in many hard- and soft skills. In addition, a certain degree of technical understanding is also a requirement, but the core component of a great IT project manager is excellent leadership skills.

But which interpersonal skills do you need as an IT project manager? To shed light on this exciting topic, we have talked to several of our high-end consultants with decades of experience in the field. This article combines their advice with the latest best practices within the area.

What characterizes good project management?

  • A good project manager has good leadership qualities.
  • Project management requires effective communication.
  • A good project manager is a good decision-maker.
  • Good project management is inspiring.
  • A project manager is good at negotiating.

1 A good project manager has good leadership traits.

The project manager’s leadership abilities are linked directly to the outcome of a project. As a project manager of an IT project, you have a lot of responsibility and earn an above-average salary to lead and deliver, especially in freelance work. But title and responsibility alone do not automatically guarantee success. Leadership skills do.

Good project managers will ensure the desired results by working together with their team(s). But the project manager cannot do it all alone. Project participants must be involved and committed; luckily, this is also an area where a good project manager can positively impact.

What personal qualities do a good project manager need?

A project manager is a visionary

Envisaging the ‘big picture’ in the project and effectively communicating this vision to others is essential for a successful project manager. Therefore, he will explain the idea to make the participants envision the desired result, so the whole team will recognize more clearly how they can carry out the tasks at the right time.

«Leaders Worry about Doing the Right Things; Managers Worry about Doing Things Right. Instead, leaders focus on accomplishing the organization’s vision,” writes Project Management Institute in an article on essential leadership qualities for a project manager.

A positive attitude

A good project manager is enthusiastic and positive. It is a pleasure to work with a passionate leader. And a leader’s enthusiasm spreads to the team members. The project manager’s determination and commitment to the project also contribute to mutual trust and respect, leading to a productive work environment.

As an external project manager, you also have a responsibility for the team’s well-being, and your positive management will create excitement.

ProData consultant and experienced IT project manager Niels-Erik Jørgensen emphasizes the importance of this aspect:

“It’s crucial to get cake on the table, to talk with the team, being social, and celebrating small and big victories along the way. At the beginning of my career, I did not prioritize these things nearly enough, but experience has taught me that this is a critical component in successful project management.”

An IT project manager must be a problem solver

A good project manager solves problems that arise during the project. She is resourceful and creative in the way she tackles the issues. The sensible project manager also knows which project participants are best suited to solve the problem and contribute.

The wise project manager will also seek to find the cause of a problem, as this is the only long-term way to solve the problem permanently.

Using a systematic approach to solving a challenge, small or large, will help you be a more effective project manager, according to project-management-skills.com, in an article on problem-solving techniques.

A qualified project manager will approach the problem with an organized and thoughtful method.

All leaders must delegate

Knowing each team member’s strengths and limitations is crucial for a project supervisor. It is a prerequisite for success. You must therefore delegate tasks to each team member.

It is an advantage for the associates that they are assigned tasks that suit their skill level. Remember, the goal is to achieve the desired results within a limited time, so delegating is effective. Leaders should be happy to encourage employees to ask questions, assign responsibilities, and know that trust will do the trick.

In this way, the manager shows interest in each employee’s tasks. And that builds confidence.

A good project manager has integrity

Integrity is the most important leadership quality a good project manager should have. Integrity is essential to gaining the trust of the project team.

Therefore, the project manager will show through her examples that she maintains values and ethical norms agreed upon and generally accepted. In this way, team members perceive the manager as honest and fair.

In the article It takes a lot of adaptability to start new projects, Klaus-Jakob Bo Nielsen, a freelance business consultant for ProData Consult, adds

{   ... ”You should be able to handle the different aspects of the organization without compromising your values.” ...   }

Five_personality_traits_of_a_good_IT_Project_Manager-2

Communication is more than writing well. A good project manager should master digital communication as much as she should listen to employees and clients.

2 Project management requires effective communication

As team member, we all use different tools to communicate, one-on-one or in meetings, by telephone, e-mail, SoMe chat, SMS, and interactive software such as Teams and Slack. We are constantly in dialogue with many, communicating in many different channels every day. But do you use these appropriately?

Effective communication is a challenge for most modern workplaces. An effective IT project manager limits oneself to appropriate tools for sharing important information.

A skilled project supervisor has also developed suitable “antennas” to determine what the project participants intend. Developing these advanced communication skills can help avoid conflicts, encourage compromise and lead to better decisions.

One of our associated consultants, IT project manager, Niels-Erik Jørgensen, believes it is essential to have open lines of communication:

“As a project manager, you must create an environment where people can express themselves, even if it is negative. You should be open to it. [...] Open lines of communication motivate team members and lead to better results and more successful projects.” From the article Key elements of a successful project.

An IT project manager who communicates effectively does this:

Listen more, talk less

Listening is one of the most critical aspects of communication. A good listener not only understands the content of the message but notices how the interlocutor feels. A good project manager creates an environment where project participants feel supported - and she will ensure that ideas, opinions, and feelings can be expressed and listened to.

Steven R. Covey writes in his book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “The data is extremely compelling, showing that a preference for listening (and listening before talking) is directly tied to a leader’s effectiveness.”

In other words, an IT project manager who listens more than she speaks will be more likely to succeed with her projects. One of them is freelance project manager Flemming Mertz, who undertakes assignments via ProData Consult.

“A good piece of advice is to listen to your team members. […] [as] you are a leader for both the agile teams, the organization, and the whole technical part. It is essential to be close to all the agile teams. [...] to attend all status meetings and Scrum of Scrum meetings. It’s about being visible and listening to how things are going, both formally and informally”, Flemming Mertz says in an interview about the team leader role he had as a consultant for ProData Consult.

Clear communication gives confidence

A confident project manager is friendly and direct in his communication. Participants must trust each other and not feel that the leader has a hidden motive. It is a prerequisite for good communication in a project.

Good communication is one of the critical factors for success in leading an IT project. Communication is one of your most essential tools for creating enthusiasm and understanding around a project. Ultimately, this will ensure your team members take responsibility for their tasks.

Body language is more important than words

Not everyone masters interpersonal communication. A survey conducted by the Workforce Solutions Group revealed that 60% of job seekers did not have good enough skills to communicate with other people.

We notice this consciously or unconsciously; in that, we get a feeling that “something is not right.” For example, imagine a leader who says to you, “You are my most important employee,” while he looks at you with a degrading face.

Take control of your emotions

Decisions have a more significant impact on your emotions than on your thoughts. Therefore, emotions play an essential role in all communication. To avoid misunderstandings and frustration, an experienced IT project manager will be mindful and use body language to appear clear and precise when he communicates decisions.

Freelance consultant Tina Møller for ProData Consult has been a project manager for more than ten years, says this:

{   ... new projects are… often complex. That is why you also have to be patient… “You often come across projects that may seem a bit chaotic, and that’s why you must listen to where the organization is and where they expect you to help them go. It requires patience and tolerance. ...   }

Five_personality_traits_of_a_good_IT_Project_Manager-3

A project manager should listen to the perspectives and opinions of others. Only then can she make good decisions based on available data and the project's goals and vision.

3 A good IT project manager is a good decision-maker

The project administrator must be an excellent decision-maker to ensure that the IT project is thriving. Project managers make many decisions every day.

So, making decisions is critical to move the project forward and ultimately bring it to its end. And the leader’s task is to ensure that the choices are rational, objective, and correct.

A good project manager uses these criteria:

Starts by identifying the target

A qualified project manager clarifies the purpose of the decision before examining the purpose of the decision. For example, he explains what problem needs to be solved and why. The project manager knows that it is easier to justify a decision when she can explain the reason behind the decision.

Uses complete and accurate data

A skilled leader investigates the background of the decision, preferably from many perspectives. And she secures the decisions with as complete data as possible within the allotted time. She then discusses essential facts and available information so that the decision is comprehensive and correct.

58% of respondents say their companies base at least half of their regular business decisions on gut feel or experience rather than being driven by data and information, says a survey in bi-survey.com.

Excellent project management requires making decisions based on a complete dataset. Otherwise, the project manager may draw erroneous conclusions.

A good IT project manager assesses the consequences

Assess the consequences of a decision thoroughly before you decide. A good project manager considers how a decision will affect the project’s participants. And she examines the quality of the result of the project. Impact assessment can be complex, so it should be based on data.

The project manager examines the perspective of others

A leader must have the ability to understand the perspective of others, listen and try to understand alternative motives. It is vital that a leader sees the whole person and can empathize and “see” another person’s situation and thought life on a human level. One expects a good project manager to have well-developed empathy.

The project manager can assess the effect of a decision

A good leader who coordinates complex projects monitors the outcome of his choices. He can continuously evaluate whether there is a need for new investigations or to get others to look at the data with fresh eyes.

Experienced project managers can often “develop” a sixth sense to identify and reverse bad decisions or bad timing.

Five_personality_traits_of_a_good_IT_Project_Manager-1

A project manager with good «antennae» and interpersonal skills will succeed and create enthusiasm and support in the various phases of the project.

4 Good project management is inspiring

Yes, the project manager's job is challenging. A lot of hard work will guarantee the project's success and its final delivery. However, a good project manager is also inspiring and must ensure that the project group is motivated.

What characterizes an inspiring leader?

A leader – not a boss

There is a big difference between leaders who show the way through their actions and listens and a boss who gives commands and directives. An inspiring project manager has influence and does not need to use his authority. On the other hand, a good project manager must stimulate, lift, and lead - not give instructions, micromanage, and have unreasonable demands.

Professor Øyvind Martinsen from BI Oslo Business School is an expert in the field. He has researched what makes leaders suitable and the relevant personality traits that are crucial to successful leadership.

Recent research has found some general common denominators for good management, including favourable personality traits and less favourable traits, Øyvind Martinsen tells forskning.no. He highlights the five-factor model that is often used in personality tests to define personality traits.

If you are

  • good at dealing with stress and nervousness
  • outgoing
  • open
  • sociable
  • good at planning

– you have the qualities of a good leader.

Do you have these five traits?

On the other hand, if you are self-centred, antisocial and manipulative – and these traits dominate – you will rarely be perceived as a good leader. The researcher points out that a good leader has both innate and learned characteristics to function well.

You must make room for mistakes

Projects with a high rate of innovation deliver the best results. However, innovation requires the will to fail. The most innovative companies in the world celebrate the mistakes and re-prioritize resources for profitable projects. An experienced project manager understands the risk and moves quickly to correct the failure.

An inspiring project manager motivates

Nothing is better than motivating compliments and encouraging comments; after all, we are just human beings. Apply this to the members of a project group.

The term "positive reinforcement" is used about the effect by rewarding encouragement. Positive reinforcement is achieved by listening to and being involved in the project participants' issues.

Remember to show genuine interest in all of the team members.

You may have heard this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

{

... Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

}

A good project manager understands that she must get involved in all the people and their work. All participants will want you to notice their work and progression. An inspiring leader makes sure to talk to all project participants frequently.

Associated ProData consultant Klaus-Jakob Bo Nielsen shares an advice:

"Although there might be a big difference in how the organization is as a workplace, I always have the same starting point: You don't have any bad days, you keep a positive tone and a good mood, and you deliver."

Five_personality_traits_of_a_good_IT_Project_Manager-4

In a project with dedicated employees, it can get intense. The project manager must not be wary of conflict but be able to solve the challenges.

5 A project manager is good at negotiating

The skills of a project manager include:

  • Contract negotiation.
  • Conflict management.
  • Dialogue with the steering group and stakeholders.
  • Handling of internal and external requirements.

Project management is a constant negotiation. So, a successful project manager should be good at negotiating. Negotiations are always ongoing through the assignment of tasks, priorities, reallocations or conflict resolution between project participants.

Negotiation in project management.

Project management is a constant negotiation. So, a successful project manager should be good at negotiating. Negotiations are always ongoing through the assignment of tasks, priorities, reallocations or conflict resolution between project participants.

Conflict management in projects

Inevitably conflicts will arise in a project with participants with different values, personalities, and skills. However, if the project manager can resolve disputes by building relationships and reconciling objectives, conflicts will not be harmful in themselves.

The project manager must be able to solve obstacles while respecting individual differences. A good leader and administrator behave calmly and treats everyone politely, even under pressure

Dialogue with stakeholders

Project managers must plan the project following the requirements of the project. The manager's task is to divide the main requirements into more minor requirements to distribute work tasks to the project participants. In agile project management principles, quick meetings will effectively settle who solves a specific task.

Good project management is also about involving the stakeholders in the project. As a project manager, coordinator, or administrator, you will analyze the various stakeholders' wishes and goals and assess all individual contributions to the project. A wise project manager will ensure that all stakeholders are adequately involved and engaged in the project.

If negative stakeholders are not taken care of and handled appropriately, their influence can be detrimental to the project. At the same time, gaining support from positive stakeholders must be used for the project's good.

Ullustration of the five personality traits an IT project manger should have

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