So, you want to be a project manager…

A young builder working on a Badger property happened to say that he ultimately aspired to be a specialist construction project manager (PM). This made the Badger wonder if young IT PMs realised the full breadth of attributes needed to succeed in project management.

The Badger remembers attending his first internal project management course many years ago. The course leaders were company seniors and a 10-minute opening address was given by the CEO. He made two points that made a lasting impression. First, he wrote 1×5=4, 2×5=10, 3×5=15 up to 10×5=50 on a flipchart. He then turned to the course attendees who, horrified that the boss could make such a mistake, pointed out that 1×5 is 5 not 4! The CEO grinned. His mistake was deliberate to make the point that in the real world you’re rarely congratulated for the 9 out of 10 things you get right, but you’re always criticized for the one thing you do wrong. He said if you can’t cope with that, don’t be a project manager!
Second, he presented a question regarding two project managers who’d each run three projects. The first PM ran two successfully but failed with their last project.

The second failed with their first two but succeeded with their last one. Which was the best PM? Everyone plumped for the first one. The CEO grinned and made his point; namely, to remember that you’re only as good as your last project, and if you can’t cope with that then don’t be a project manager!

Wise and very apt words in the Badger’s experience. It’s also the Badger’s experience that it takes more than PM process knowledge or APM or PMI accreditation to be a good project manager. The right human attributes are crucial too. The best PMs have complex personalities and inner strengths. They’re focused, assertive, directional, objective, decisive, and action-oriented individuals who are empathetic but firm with their team and their client. Their actions build respect and they take responsibility. They’re rational, natural problem solvers, astute, calm under pressure, and politically, technically, commercially and financially savvy. They’re tough, resilient, analytical, forward-looking with a nose for trends and threats, and at least 7 out of 10 decisions they make are good ones. People with all these attributes are rare beasts!

So, if you want to be a PM think carefully whether you’ve the right personal attributes for the role. But don’t be unduly put off, because you don’t know what you’re capable off until you try! Afterall, the buzz from shaking the client’s hand on a successful delivery is second to none, and the pride that goes with seeing the results of your management in use for years – or sometimes decades – is awesome and will never leave you.

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