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Do you have what it takes to be an effective project manager?

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

by Richard Fanelli, AIA


business woman giving a presentation

We all can't be the perfect project manager, but we can evaluate our own strengths and weaknesses against many of the qualities of great project managers.

Over the past 15 years of teaching planning and project management classes around the country, I always poll my students as to what they consider to be the traits and qualities of the best project managers with whom they have worked. The following is a summary of those qualities.

Rank yourself against each item, with: 1 = "Need to work at it"; 2 = "Pretty good at it now but could use a little polishing"; and 3 = "This is one of my real strengths.”

• Good organizational skills: The ability to create order out of chaos, and the ability to know where all the important papers and documents are at all times. You prioritize your activities and time effectively.

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Good technical skills/knowledgeable: You really are an expert in your line of work. You know how things work and how to get things done. You are detail-oriented.

Good leadership skills: You know how to direct and motivate people. You are an effective orchestrator of people and processes. You can see and communicate the big vision.

Good people skills/politically savvy: You know how to effectively deal with all kinds of people and you know how the system works. You know how to say the right things at the right time in order to accomplish your objectives.

Good problem solver: You evaluate all the information you have and come up with creative solutions. You are adept at "piggy backing” on other people's ideas and creating an even better idea.

Good communicator: You can get your point across with a minimum amount of words. You can effectively address the "C suite” as well as have yourself understood by the rank-and-file staff.

Ability to stay focused: You aren't usually sidetracked with other issues and agendas. You constantly have the critical success factors in the forefront of your mind.

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Flexible and adaptable: When Murphy's Law goes into hyper-drive, you bend like a willow in the breeze with your creative problem-solving skills. You're not so rigid that you cannot make adjustments in your game plan to reach your intended goal. You meet crises head-on, knowing there are always ways to resolve challenges.

Good at conflict resolution: You're adept at mediating disagreement and can help opposing parties arrive at win-win compromises.

Score yourself

1-10: You need to work on those areas on which you scored weakest.

11-20: You are well on your way to being an effective project manager. Smooth out the rough edges.

21-30: You are a well-rounded project manager with a well-developed left and right brain. Polish those areas that can use a little shine.

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Richard Fanelli, AIA, is author of the book, Best Project Management Practices. He is a registered architect and founder of the Fanelli McClain Design Studios. Email:

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