What Are the Most Important Traits of a Successful Project Manager?

When it comes to taking a project from start to finish, it’s hard to overstate the value of stellar project management. It can mean the difference between delivering an on-budget, on-time project and one that fails to meet expectations or deliver real business value. With so much on the line, it’s absolutely critical to work with true project leadership talent. Yet companies often struggle to attract, hire, and onboard project managers of their own with the right combination of skills and experience.

Why is finding a good project manager so challenging? For starters, they’re in high demand, and existing talent shortages make finding project leadership talent no easy feat. But more than that, organizations tend to overemphasize technical knowledge and training, while undervaluing soft skills and cultural fit. This is a dangerous habit to adopt.

Why Technical Skills Are Only Half the Equation

When it comes to project managers, it’s essential to consider both hard skills (e.g., how proficient a project manager is at navigating software) and soft skills (e.g., what makes that project manager an effective leader). According to PMI, 32% of project management experts say leadership and specialized skills are both key attributes of a project manager. Yet a 2018 study found that 62% of company leaders regard hard skills as the most critical ability for a project manager.

However useful they may be, tangible skills found on a résumé don’t tell the whole story. For instance, all a PMP certification tells you is that a project manager is minimally qualified. But it will do little to demonstrate whether they can rally your team around a demanding project, which is a primary challenge of project management. For that, you must consider cultural alignment.

“Culture” has morphed into a nebulous buzzword in talent circles. To put it simply, organizational culture is the expectations, experiences, and values that guide team behavior. For project managers, culture dictates how well team members work together in pursuit of a common goal.

Working with a project manager who’s aligned with your company’s culture also improves the team’s performance and the project’s outcome. Almost 90% of leaders agree that their most successful hires are those who were evaluated for cultural fit, according to the same 2018 study.

How to Find a Good Project Manager

To help ensure the next project manager you work with is an excellent cultural fit, there are multiple steps you can take. First, if you’re working with a talent solution provider, remember that not all of them are created equal.

Traditional staffing firms often lack the expertise needed to identify soft skills that aren’t plainly stated in a résumé. What’s more, they rarely help clients identify a shortlist of candidates who are a good fit. Instead, they drop a pile of résumés that check a few boxes on your HR team’s lap and leave it to them to comb through the list and identify suitable matches.

Partnering with a talent solution provider that specializes in project management connects you with a diverse array of experts. They aren’t just passing along people they found on Dice and Indeed. A specialized talent solution partner grants you access to project leaders that have been proven members of their firm.

It’s also imperative to seek a culture fit right out of the gate. If interviewing candidates provided by a staffing partner, you need to ask questions to determine whether a potential hire fits your current culture. Again, a specialized talent solution partner has intimate knowledge of the people they provide so they know who fits in what organization. Additionally, they can provide the expertise needed to ask project managers the right questions and ascertain whether they’re talking around questions or demonstrating real knowledge on how to manage project staff.

Finally, once you’ve started working with a knew project leader, make sure you’re providing ongoing support to ensure a successful ramp-up. If you’re going the staffing route, it takes approximately eight months for a new hire to be fully productive in their role. Address any issues as they arise, and continue to coach your new project manager on your internal processes and organizational quirks. Working with a project manager at a talent solution firm does not have as long of a ramp-up period as a brand new hire, and the partner should work closely with you to get them acclimated as quickly and completely as possible.

Adding new talent is never “low stakes,” but finding a good project manager is especially high stakes because languishing projects amount to a great deal of lost time and resources. When adding project leadership talent, look beyond their relevant technical skills to determine whether they have the right blend of core values and soft skills.

To learn more about how WiserWulff can provide project leadership talent, set up a free consultation today.

Recent Insights

April 10, 2024

How to Overhaul a Culture of Project Malpractice

Expectations around project success are historically low across organizations. Poor results in the past have led many companies to believe that only a few projects will pan out, and executives often respond by thinking...

April 2, 2024

The Run-On Effects of Failed Projects

Project management is far from a new concept. Some historians say its origins date back to the Egyptian era, and even modern project management practices can be traced back to as early as the...

March 26, 2024

Project Failure = Leadership Failure

Projects are often complex undertakings filled with a series of interdependent people, parts, and processes. Envisioning and bringing them to fruition takes a significant amount of expertise and planning.