20 Things Successful Project Managers Do

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.


The difference between a truly successful project manager and one who is less than successful can often come down to the little things like building up a good rapport with your team and with your stakeholders. But sometimes, no matter how well a team and project are managed, failure seems to loom large from the start. Usually because there is a pre-defined and unrealistic deadline or a limited budget or an awkward client who wants the project done right but is not prepared to invest in the time and effort required to get the requirements right.


Whatever the reasons that are outside the control of the project manager, the most successful tend to ameliorate these problems by certain simple steps and behaviours. These are 20 of the things that successful managers do – often instinctively – but the list is far from exhaustive:


1.      Display a confident and optimistic attitude about the project at all times

2.      Have a positive attitude towards their team and the project stakeholders

3.      Are prepared to be proved wrong in their opinions

4.      Encourage frank and open discussions about all aspects of a project

5.      Get to know their team members

6.      Set clear goals and expectations

7.      Ask questions about all and everything related to the project

8.      Praise their team when praise is due

9.      Offer constructive criticism when necessary

10.  Are prepared to admit mistakes

11.  Search for solutions to problems rather than apportioning blame

12.  Coach team members on ways to improve their performance where necessary

13.  Value the contribution of all members of the project team however junior

14.  Understand the importance of delivering a quality product

15.  Get stuck in to help out on difficult problems

16.  Are confident in challenging assumptions

17.  Expect 100% effort from all of the project team

18.  Are prepared to listen to innovative or unorthodox ideas

19.  Have regular conversations with the client and stakeholders

20.  Never get angry

Actually I’m not sure about that last one – maybe it’s a nice-to-have that we aim to achieve.

Why not let me know what you think I have missed off this list – there are plenty of other things that a successful project manager does…

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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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