Professional Attributes of Successful Project Managers

The purpose of this blog is to outline my experience and definition of project managers.

Personality Traits:

  1. Be confident
  2. Look energetic
  3. Respond positively
  4. Warm in interactions
  5. Firm shake hands
  6. Helping outlook
  7. Dress smartly
  8. Smell good

The various professional attributes have been categorized into following sections.

1. Communication Skills
2. Business outlook – Customer Perspective
3. Emotional Quotient
4. Stakeholder Management
5. Strategic Outlook – Analytic Abilities
6. Manage expectations


You are what you communicate. Unfortunately there is no tool or device invented so far that can peep into your mind. People will first make perception about you and then same perceptions will lead to judgments about you. And it is entirely based upon your own actions, your own communication and the way you carry yourself.  There are 2 ways you can express your thoughts to communicate.


    1. Email Etiquettes:

a. Warmth/energy/appreciation
b. Confidence
c. Heavy weight with value added contents (not heavy on size /lines but on value)
d. Known primary and secondary recipient –to, cc
e. Subject clearly summarizing the contents
f. Clear and crisp – language as clearly understandable by recipient
g. Correct language – grammar, punctuation

  1. Acknowledge emails ASAP, even if actual reply may take couple of days
  2. Use the lingo and terminology of the customer as far as possible – this will make him feel that you are someone like him, it will make the relation stronger and trust enlightened
  3. Customer name – never misspell and never mispronounce


  1. To be good in verbal communication, first lesson is to be a good and active LISTENER
  2. Ask right questions
  3. Calculate in your mind why this person is saying so? Ask yourself questions – is he worried, does he need information, does he expect some decision, does he need appreciation and so on…? Try to read his/her mind, understand his intent and emotions.
  4. Tailor your response- emotionally well received and solution oriented; Make sure the person does not go back empty handed. Your response should make him feel better after talking to you. It could be in the form of good solution or showing empathy or taking an action on yourself assuring him not to worry etc.

Emotional Quotient

1. Forget I, be him

a. Think from his perspective
b. Think what all may go wrong
c. Think how your communication will be perceived by him who cannot read your mind and probably sitting miles away from you
d. Think and kill any scope of misinterpretation of your message (e.g. mail), think and kill all scope of negative  thoughts/emotions in his mind
e. Think that your stakeholder is from different background (he is not into the role of project manager), may belong to different culture/country, may not be aware the challenges/constraints at your end (he never worked as project manager)

2. Cool and Calm in times of adversity

a. Don’t get overwhelmed by number of issues or complexity of issues, there is always a way out.
b. Break down the problem into small units which can be discussed independently,
c. identify impact of each
d. Prioritize and see if what those small units need immediate attention and which can be put on hold (sometimes withdraw and avoid are good strategies)
e. Evaluate efforts to be put versus gain (don’t put too much effort on those items which will result into little gain, here think like a pure businessman)

Work Management

    1. Clarity of work
    2. Know expectations clearly from your stakeholders and also tell your expectations from them very clearly
    3. Objectively define what are the expectations of stakeholders, define in numbers as much as possible
    4. Do self-measurement at regular intervals and validate it with constant feedback
    5. Remember the golden rule “Under Commitment and Over Delivery”. Everyone feels happy to get more than expected.
    6. Do the same for the team you are managing – define clear and crisp definition of done with objective & measurable parameters as much as possible. Evaluate and give constructive feedback.
    7. Remember the golden rule – under commitment and over delivery – keep your promises and try to fulfill promise before the committed time and with some extra value/information
    8. Set the expectations – straight and upfront, being shy is recipe of disaster
    9. Managing technical team is always more difficult than managing customer
    10. Habit of taking feedback

o Feedback of your team
o Feedback of your solution(s)
o Feedback of your objects/artifacts/documents etc that you delivered

Business Outlook – Customer Perspective

    1. Definition of done: Individual transactions have less business value as compared to the overall goal. Try to understand the whole and not just part of it which has been assigned to you.
    2. Understand why customer has given this project to you or to your organization– is it domain competency, cost effectiveness, technological excellence, known for quality, high productivity, Agile ways of working or anything else – it can be a combination of many things – find out and make sure that your team delivers that

      a. Usually customers hate metrics, they think it is waste of productive time but if some useful data is presented in his business language (e.g. cost per feature, hours per complexity point etc.) in a clear and crisp manner – he is surely going to love it….always do it as surprises and do it for those factors for which customer has awarded you the project

    3. Understand the difference between happy and delighted customer

Perfection – strive for perfection, no room of error

a. Accurate data
b. Precise information
c. Punctuality
d. Exact specifications – colors, logo, terminology

Stakeholder Management

    1. Show your stakeholders – you are with him, stand by with him. Show them his success is precious to you, his pain is also pain to you
    2. Highest reliability index – no follow up by anyone, no worry in his mind

  • Build relation – there is no substitute of building excellent relation. You may be 100% all right, ma give perfect solution but until unless you have good relation – there will be not many takers of your solution. Even perfect solution will not be very effective in the absence of good relation. Consider good relation as fuel that runs the car. Even BMW or Mercedes worth million dollars need fuel to run. Purpose of any solution is to remove worry. Worry cannot be removed if he has no confidence in you. Good relation is the first stepping stone to gain Confidence. Even an average solution can remove all of the worry in the mind of the stakeholder if you have good relation with him.


  1. Winning the mind is half the job done. Good solution will take care of the other half.
  2. Don’t let your stakeholders follow up you, even better to give proactive updates even before someone asks

Behavioral Attributes

  1. Know your people very wello People need 2 kind of skills – Technical skills to do the job and Soft skills
    o Identify skill level in each area of your team and connect with them well
    o People with high skills in both areas should be given higher responsibility, maximum freedom and require no supervision
    o People with moderate skill in each area need coaching, training and may need mild supervision
    o People having low skill in any area should be given sufficient support such as assigning a buddy with them, long term coaching plan, constant mentoring to help them improve skills
  2. Cool and calm

Think, Think, Think – Analytic Abilities, Strategic Outlook

    1. Think innovative, don’t just jump to conclusion
    2. Think before you act – e.g. phone or email, phone before mail, mail followed by phone etc.
    3. Say No:a. Be clear and upfront, what you can do and what you cannot
      b. Don’t say yes to those things which you are slight possibility of not achieving
      c. Set realistic expectations

  • Never say No: this may sound contradictory to the above but actually not. It is about “Art of saying No”. On those matters where you feel like saying no, hold on. Think. Think why he is saying so, what exactly he is trying to achieve, what problem he is trying to solve by asking you to do a certain thing. If you think on these lines, soon you will be able to find alternatives and probably find better solutions. So don’t jump to saying no rather engage him in discussion and try to read his mind and get to know ‘why’ part.


a. Get back to you
b. Will discuss internally and get back to you with best possible solution
c. Will talk to my management and try to get favor for you to whatever extent possible within our business framework
d. To conclude, always give feeling that I will do everything to make your business a success. Don’t let him feel that you are trying to run away.

By the way,there is an excellent eBook on the topic available for free download.