In a lean, well-managed business, every person is critical for fulfilling the company’s mission. Each individual brings their own strengths to the team and having a wide range of skillsets is essential for achieving your strategic goals. But often employees with very different responsibilities can have similar qualities that make them valuable to the business. For example, senior managers may be entrusted to steer the ship, but project managers possess many of the same traits and are critical for actually keeping the boat afloat. The qualities of a project manager and the value they bring to an organization make them just as important for moving your company forward. Here are eight similarities between senior managers and project managers.
The best managers, whether working at the project level or C-suite, have an innate ability to manage risks and identify issues before they happen. For senior leaders, this may mean identifying new markets, new product offerings, or restructuring the organization to be more efficient. For project managers, this means spotting chokepoints that slow down project delivery and creating processes that are more efficient and more effective. In both cases, the ability to anticipate challenges and opportunities and then create a path to success is a core quality that helps deliver positive business results.
2. Masters of delegation
Managers can’t do everything. They need to learn to take advantage of their resources and use the expertise of their team to get work done. The best managers are great at delegating the right task to the right individual to get the most out of their team.
3. Direct and open
Managers can’t play favorites or indulge in the rumor mill, no matter how juicy the gossip may be. Instead, they must always be level-headed and straightforward with both staff and clients. That means they have to be consistently direct in their communications and remain open to constructive feedback. Whether the message pertains to a single project or the entire company, the best managers possess the communication skills to keep everyone moving in the right direction.
4. Always on
Problems occur in and out of business hours. Employees and clients may need help at odd times, and being responsible for the success of your team or project requires the ability to go beyond the normal 9 to 5. Although it can be a burden at times, managers who are “always on” will always generate better results for your business.
Senior managers don’t become managers simply because they are the smartest people. They hire the smartest people and use their resourcefulness to fill in the gaps. Project managers have to do the same thing. The expertise of their team can rarely cover 100% of the randomness that can come up during complex projects. So, project managers have to step up and step in to help get projects completed by working through any unexpected challenges.
6. Juggling and context switching
Multitasking is important in almost all roles. But with senior managers and project managers, there are always a variety of issues up in the air at once: unhappy clients, personnel issues, odd schedules, and your own bosses. These have to be managed thoroughly and completely to maintain order for the team or project. The ability to juggle all of these things simultaneously while staying focused on the ultimate goal is an important quality for any project manager or senior-level leader.
Senior managers and project managers have to be able to bear the brunt of ridicule and feedback from clients and higher-ups. They do not have the luxury of blaming specific team members. Rightly or wrongly, they become sponges for blame and are responsible for everyone who operates under them. The best managers are ready to take responsibility if there is a mistake in the project or a mistake among their team.
Whether you’re talking about a department-wide initiative or an individual project, someone has the last say on any key decisions. That person is the manager. While this seems obvious, making big decisions doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and having a process to help guide those choices is important for any senior or project manager who wants to be successful over the long-term. Not only do managers need to make the decision, but they also need the confidence to stand by those choices and see them through to fruition.
They say you can’t compare apples to oranges, and it’s certainly true that senior managers and project managers have very different responsibilities. But by looking at the skills and qualities that it takes to be successful in both roles, it’s clear they have a lot more in common than you might think. It’s important to recognize then that good project managers are extremely valuable and a core component of creating a successful business.