Business Growth & Strategy

Project Execution, Part 3 – Attributes of an Effective Project Manager

Project Execution, Part 3 - Attributes of Effective Project Leaders

This article discusses leadership techniques that motivate, remembering to stand back and view the big picture, and what to avoid doing as a project manager.

Project Execution, Part 3 - Attributes of Effective Project Leaders

Leadership Techniques That Motivate

  • Management by walking around really does work – be available.

During your discussions and meeting, make eye contact with the others as a way to show your interest and respect.

  • Mentor, coach, delegate as required.

The most junior members of your team may need personal attention from you or another member of the team – ensure they receive it; give them assignments in very small blocks.  Mid-level team members require some coaching; give them medium-length assignments and be sure they understand it is fine to ask questions whenever they are unsure.  When you know someone is capable of fully executing a portion of the project, delegate the assignment, provide resources, and do not micro-manage.

  • Show humility – don’t try to or pretend to know everything.
  • Be a good listener for better ideas – especially from those currently doing the work.

Take notes during discussions, and use others’ good ideas.

  • Strike a balance between making decisions and controlling the process (see the prior article for conducting effective meetings).
  • Give credit to the task leaders and team members.

As a project manager, you are already highly visible in your organization.  You are able to earn respect and career growth simply by having your projects succeed.  If you make it a habit to give credit to your team, and special credit to the strongest contributors, you will not only contribute to team morale, but good workers will want to be assigned to your future projects.

View the Big Picture

As the project manager, you might be wearing 2 hats, the other being a technical worker on the project, just another member of the project team contributing to deliverables.  If project management was allocated 10 percent of the project’s labor effort, you and your task managers, as a group, had better be spending some or all of that allocated time on managing the project.

  • Frequently review project guidance documents for reminders about activities, content of deliverables, changed conditions, and add your observations to your to do list.
  • When working with qualified, senior team members, be interested in details, but do not get lost in them (quiz and then delegate).
  • Don’t have a big ego.

When in unfamiliar territory, review with your superiors, trusted subs, or technical experts.

  • Be alert for ways to improve your organization.

Pass suggestions into your company’s continuous improvement mechanism.  If your company doesn’t have such a system, start one.

What to Avoid (Why Project Managers Fail)

  • Beginning a project that does not have an appropriate budget and schedule, or does not provide the project manager with sufficient authority to make decisions and direct the use of project resources.
  • Refusing to monitor, enforce peer reviews and other QA/QC procedures.
  • Worrying about your image, not holding people accountable.

Project management is not a popularity contest.  You might have to tell a salaried employee to revise work on his/her own time.  You might have to remove an hourly employee from your team.  If you have friends in your organization and you are not willing to hold them accountable when they underperform, do not allow them to be a part of your project team.

  • Allowing the project plan to creep or change “informally”.
  • Failing to seek help when you are in over your head.
  • Ignoring potential or actual issues or problems.

–      aggressively identify issues, root causes.

–      develop a corrective action plan

–      implement, and monitor while getting back on track.

  • Postponing decisions, or not controlling the decision making process.


When you need technical expertise from in-house scientists, engineers, or programmers, how do you get their “buy in” (perform quality work, while adhering to budgets and schedules)?

Although placed at the end of my project execution articles, the answer to this question is primarily related to project initiation and planning.  Most of the answer lies in requesting input from these very same people during project initiation and planning phases.  They should be involved in developing approaches; estimating how many hours the effort will take and all associated costs; and determining company capacity to perform the work.  During execution, the project manager should be reminding them, several weeks in advance, that their contributions are about to be required.

Next Article in This Series:  The next article begins our discussion of project control techniques.

Category: Business Growth & Strategy Leadership


About the Author: Randy Klein

Randy Klein is a project management expert, certified quality manager, and licensed professional engineer with 30 years of consulting and management experience.  Mr. Klein developed a project management seminar for universities in Utah, Wisc…

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