Good vs Bad Project Managers [part I]

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

If you’ve been hanging around the water cooler or online at a discussion forum for project managers, you will know that people think differently about what makes a good or bad project Learn & Leadmanager. The assumption is that PMs use principles of project management, best practices, tools, templates and have some type of project management training. If this baseline assumption is table stakes, then let’s look at the seasoning, the special sauce that makes PMs good. I’ve spent over twenty years studying managers and teams, and what makes them work or fail. I’ve seen some managers get great projects and promotions, while others are passed over. The observations below are specific to good PMs, and which you can evaluate yourself against. It is not a comprehensive list; rather, it’s a starting point for you to look at yourself and see how you are doing things. I’ve always been a proponent of finding people that you think are really good project managers and evaluating for yourself what makes them so good; then, emulating what they do. The following six qualities are in addition to those baseline PM best practices.

  1. Professional Development and Certifications. I have found that really good PMs are constant learners. They are interested in learning. They constantly look to better themselves and improve their baseline and interpersonal skills, and are learning about teams. We’ve all seen examples across our organizations of people who have all the certificates on their wall but are really bad project managers. Regardless, I do still believe those who are good are constant learners. They invest in themselves, in professional development and certifications.
  2. Conscious and Aware. Good PMs are conscious and aware of themselves and others. They set their teams up for success, and are aware of what people are really good or bad at. They recognize when someone on the team is struggling and needs support. They are aware when someone has shut down or is not providing information, or when estimates people provide don’t seem correct per the plan. They are tuned in.
  3. Mentors and Mentees. They recognize that learning is a give and take; they serve as a mentor, and have mentors. It’s important to have people in your life who have been there and done that, whether it concerns a new technology or subject area you are learning. Mentees, as I’ve always experienced for myself, provide yet another opportunity to learn. When I’m teaching a mentee, I learn from their perspective.
  4. Build and Nurture Relationships. Good PMs are very good at building and nurturing relationships, because they believe relationships are the way to really get things done. We already know how critical people are to the team, but good PMs work at building and nurturing relationships. If they are really bad at that, then they find go-to people who do have those relationships and leverage them.
  5. Social Online and Offline. It’s great to be involved in learning and seeing other people experience learning, but it’s also about giving and taking best practices into the community.
  6. Mobile. Project managers rarely sit at their desk. If they are, that means they are not interacting, meeting, collaborating or socializing with their team or stakeholders. Being mobile is not just being out and about, it’s being effective while on the go. They communicate and respond effectively and promptly while they are on the go.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Whitt, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at


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