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What makes a project manager successful?

So you’re a new project manager. Congrats, that’s so exciting! And probably a little nerve-racking. You’re now in a position where you need to balance budgets and timesheets, manage requests and resolve communication conflicts, all while making sure deadlines are met and everyone is happy. So, how does a project manager stay above water? What are the skills you need to develop as a new project manager to stay on top of it all? We’ve outlined the essential skills that will help you become the best project manager you can be.

Character development

Be a mentor: One of the traits of a good project manager is that employees should look up to him or her and emulate that work style. It’s up to the project manager to set a good example, and it’s important that the project manager takes responsibility for decisions and stands by them. Good project managers understand that blaming others for mistakes or events that happen accomplishes nothing.

Stay humble: A good project manager also needs to be humble. It’s important that he or she be a good leader, and a good leader knows the importance of humbly admitting a mistake. Along with humility, good project managers are flexible enough to change when they realize they’ve made a mistake.

Remain calm: Successful project managers are also able to remain calm under pressure, since being calm helps you make better decisions, prevents you from acting in haste and helps keep others calm. Keeping calm helps you think clearly, and get more done.

Keep an upbeat attitude

Nobody wants to work with project managers who are grumpy pessimists. (It’s also less likely that those people will be promoted to project management positions in the first place.) A project manager with a positive attitude is a good leader, and can inspire others to accomplish things.

Having a good attitude doesn’t mean being annoyingly happy all the time, but it does mean having courage and remaining positive in the face of challenges, or when things don’t go as planned. A positive attitude yields resilience, and it can help an entire team bounce back after a failed project. At the end of the day, project managers should be problem solvers.

Take the lead

It’s critical for project managers to have strong leadership skills. Good leads inspire others to work, often by putting work in themselves. Many people think of a leader as one who gives orders, but good leaders are down in the trenches working with their team.

Good leaders also understand that they can’t accomplish everything by themselves. So they surround themselves with teams of capable people and delegate responsibility. And while project managers can’t delegate the project management responsibility to others on their team, they can delegate tasks to members of their team–leaving them available to assist with and provide supervision to the project when needed.

Remember: Communication is key

A good leader must have good communication skills, being able to disseminate information from the higher ups to the team quickly and clearly, while also relaying critical project updates to management. It’s important to note that while being a good speaker is important, interpersonal communication skills go far beyond words.

Good communication skills involve being able to listen to and understand the voices of others. Project managers need to be aware of what is happening on all levels of the project, as well as what things are or aren’t working. They can get this information by developing a good relationship with their creative project or client teams, asking good questions and listening completely to the responses. Simply passing information between teams won’t make the cut for a project manager to be successful.

It’s also important that a project manager be able to diffuse conflict quickly and calmly. Workplace tension slows productivity and keeps people from working together. It will take persuasion and a cool head to take a negative situation, turn it around and keep the project moving forward.

Motivate your teams

Beyond communicating is the ability to motivate your team to move forward on a project. It’s important that project managers communicate excitement about the project, and can encourage others to be excited as well. A good project manager can show others how to be engaged on a project, even though it may be less than exciting.

Find out what motivates the individuals on your team. Get to know them and their talents and put them to work in the place best suited for them. Having a team with a wide array of skills will bring a lot of diversity to the project, and it can bring in a lot of new ideas. Make sure these ideas are heard and implemented into the project if possible.


No matter what kind of project you’re put in charge of, these skills are essential to leading your team across the creative finish line and through to more projects. They will work with you to complete the project quickly as you inspire them, listen to them, lead them and motivate them. Develop these skills, and you’re well on your way to becoming a very good project manager.

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