Hiring great Project Managers: 7 key qualities for agency PMs

by | Oct 30, 2017 | Managing Teams

Great project managers bring order to chaos at your agency!

Great project managers bring order to chaos at your agency!

What’s the difference between a so-so project manager and a great project manager? Great PMs consistently juggle the needs of many stakeholders—external clients, internal team members… and you as their boss.

If you’re not detail-oriented as an agency owner, you need someone to fill-in for your weaknesses. And if you are detail-oriented, you probably still need a PM—because you shouldn’t be responsible for every client detail yourself.

I’ve identified seven major qualities that make someone a great project managers. If you find a PM who can do all seven—and they’re a great fit for your culture—hang onto them!

7 things to look for in great project managers

#1. Great project managers create order from chaos. This includes creating new systems, and persuading their coworkers to follow them.

#2. Great project managers balance Warmth & Competence. Their job is to get things done (Competence), but they also need to make their stakeholders feel appreciated (Warmth). This is especially important when a PM is also serving as account manager.

#3. Great project managers take time to manage stakeholder expectations. No one likes negative surprises. Plus, it’s a great way to deliver “strategically free” services, while avoiding “secretly free” work. After all, your clients aren’t doing this work every day; you’re the expert.

#4. Great project managers are constantly juggling the “Iron Triangle” of project management—scope, timeline, and budget. They help their stakeholders understand the trade-offs between Good, Fast, and Cheap.

#5. Great project managers use pre-kickoff surveys. In the survey, a PM asks questions like how each stakeholder defines success, how much time each week the stakeholder plans to commit to the project, and how things went when the stakeholder did similar projects before. This gives the PM an opportunity to reconcile any differences, before it’s too late.

#6. Great project managers always do debriefs after every project. They answer three questions: what worked, what didn’t work, and what to do differently next time. And then they learn from that the next time they do similar work. Consider adding this to your list of PM interview questions—what have they learned from project (or retainer) debriefs?

#7. Great project managers practice self-care. Being a PM is stressful; great PMs have a system to de-stress and put things into perspective. This includes doing professional development as a PM, to help them regularly up-level their skills—and to connect with likeminded PMs.

Question: What great-PM qualities would you add to the list?


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