A project manager has to wear many hats these days. Like a hard hat, for example. There are many skills required to ensure the timely completion of projects that meet all of the success criteria. Depending on the project type, size and complexity, some roles are more important than others.
The following lists some of the roles a project manager plays.
- Problem Solver. Some projects feel like you’re problem solving all day long. Some others are based entirely on solving a problem, when there’s one overriding obstacle to overcome. Whatever the situation, the project manager must be the chief problem solver.
- Salesman. There are often stakeholders with nothing to gain from the project (i.e. adjacent landowners), or those who have conflicting goals with other stakeholders. Also, the sponsoring organization sometimes isn’t 100% committed to the project or its complete funding. It’s a constant selling job.
- Planner. Stakeholders, by definition, have expectations. The project manager must ensure that all work is planned out, estimated accurately, resources are available, and the project is set up for success. Ensuring that the right expectations are established from the outset is central to a successful project. Planning ensures these are realistic, adequate resources are available, and the risks are known in advance.
- Organizer. Once the planning is complete and the project is underway, the project manager must organize resources, people, tools, and everything else that’s required to ensure the project is completed one time and budget.
- Communicator. The project manager is the central point of contact for all project communication, internally and externally. Communication skills are paramount.
- Leader. The project manager must not only manage the project schedule, quality and risks, but provide leadership to the project team to ensure that the project team is motivated and the project is completed to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
- Manager. Ensuring the project has the necessary people, resources, tools, equipment, to complete its mission successfully is not a small task.
- Facilitator. The project manager must ensure that stakeholders who come from different backgrounds and perspectives work come together and learn to agree. Also, the project team must gel and develop synergy to maximize productivity.
- Bully. Sometimes it feels like you’re the schooyard bully. Project managers are constantly following up, making sure that people are on top of the things they should be, issues are resolved, and action items are completed.
- Motivator. Project teams must be motivated to be productive. They must know they are working on something important.
- Coach. I believe that people who coach sports are natural project managers. Organizing a team, making them gel so that the whole equals more than the sum of its parts, and inspiring them to success covers most of the fundamentals of people skills necessary for project management.
- Protector. Sometimes the project manager must protect the project team from external noise that distracts them from full focus on delivering the project. This is paramount on high profile projects.
- Actuator. The project manager must stay on top of the risks presented by the project. The severity of risks and their probability of occurence must be known and communicated to the project stakeholders. Changes to the risk profile are always occurring, and the project manager must stay of top of it.
- Policeman. Disciplining members of the project team, or removing them for non-performance, is the project managers job. The project manager must take action if there is an unacceptable drop in project quality.
Do not be discouraged by the length of this list, because nobody can perform all of the roles of a project manager well. Projects are by definition complex and multidisiplinary, and require many skills.
I am a believer in strengths-based leadership, therefore my suggestion is to look at your strengths and “be the absolute best” at those. This motivates the team and provides strong leadership. As for your weaker items, either delegate them to someone else or perform to the minimum acceptable standard. You have a finite amount of energy. Use it on your strengths.
Let me know in the comments if there’s anything you would add, subtract, or change. I’d like to hear from you.