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Good to Great: What separates good project managers from great ones?

4th March 2019

what makes a great project manager

If we were to list the qualities of a ‘good’ project manager, we could go on forever. It goes without saying that in order to be a proficient project manager you need to be organised, logical, a problem solver, team player and so on… – but what are the qualities of a great project manager, and why are they so crucial? In this post we have reflected on our experience as project managers to collate what we consider to be attributes that set apart great project managers from good ones. 


We all know that not all projects run smoothly – and by not all, we mean hardly any, ever. Inevitably, there will be hurdles to overcome in one form or another and it’s our job as project managers to keep each and every project on track in order to successfully deliver the outcome on time and on budget. Great project managers will be resilient and unflappable – able to efficiently absorb bad news and quickly action a positive response. 


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. For great project managers, this is crucial, as it is important to be able to empathise with the pressures and responsibilities of everyone on your task force as well as your boss / client(s). After all, projects aren’t simply a matrix of tasks and outputs, it’s important to remember that in most cases humans are involved in each of these outputs, and so emotions need to be accounted for too.  


Having foresight is another key attribute of a great project manager. It is vision that allows us to effectively account for potential delays before they have even happened. Being able to anticipate events in this way means that potential challenges can be avoided before they need to be overcome. 


Intuition really is the ‘X factor’ of project management. It’s a hard thing to teach yourself and is generally inherent and/or built up over years of experience. No matter how many plans you create or calculations you do, sometimes you simply have to go with your gut. 


Great project managers are like chameleons – able to adapt to a wide variety of situations and can apply themselves to many different functions and activities. At different times during a project, you may feel more like a member of the sales team, accounts or even technical teams, but will still feel comfortable when wearing these different ‘hats’. 


For example your product knowledge is expected to be as good as the product creator / engineer, your knowledge of its costs as in-depth as the company accountant’s and application knowledge as good as that of your clients. 

Emotional Intelligence 

Emotional intelligence is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. 


To be able to empathise with all parties is one thing, but knowing exactly how to effectively communicate with a whole host of very different individuals with very different personalities is another. A great project manager is brilliant at this and it is your high level of emotional intelligence that makes you well-liked by both your internal and external teams. Ultimately, because of your excellent ability to communicate as well as get the job done earns you the respect of your colleagues, clients and bosses. This means that people work with you not because they have to, but because they want to – and this ultimately ensures that you excel within your project management role. 

Are you looking for tools to help you to become the best project manager you can be? If so, you’ve come to the right place. 


Timeline Expert’s project management and project timeline software can save you hours of time week-in-week-out. This means you can spend more time managing your projects and less time creating Gantt charts and presentations for yourself and key stakeholders. 


Timeline Expert can create beautiful timelines for you – all at the click of a button.  Download your 30-day free trial today and start saving time instantly. 

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