It’s not that other factors are unimportant to Project Management. Things like experience, training, resources, budget and support are all critical to success. But if I could improve just one variable in the Project Manager equation, it would be personality.
The most successful Project Managers – the PMs who succeed regardless of outside factors – possess certain personality traits. These traits help overcome typical project pitfalls like lack of resources, difficult sponsors, compressed schedule, poor scope, etc. Here are some of the traits we look for when hiring a Project Manager.
Charisma – Charisma is a difficult thing to describe in writing, but “you know it, when you see it”. PMs need to build rapport with clients, sponsors, vendors, and team members. The job requires giving bad news, asking for favors, and pushing others to complete tasks. These are all easier when strong relationships have been established.
Patience – There are plenty of “type A” personalities (“D”, if familiar with DiSC) in Project Management, myself included. When pressured, it is natural for PMs to push their teams harder. Impatient PMs frustrate team members, vendors, and even sponsors. My favorite PMs are the ones who never seem shaken, especially when the project is challenged.
Perseverance – A good PM stays focused on the desired outcome, rather than getting distracted by ‘shiny objects’. It is easy to become sidetracked by politics, scope creep, excuses, etc. Great PMs understand the true objective of their project, and they single-mindedly drive towards that outcome.
Methodical – Probably the most obvious desired personality trait of a Project Manager – PMs need to be organized. Some people are, and some are not. It can be taught, learned, and practiced, but the best PMs are naturally methodical.
These are just a few of the characteristics we look for. You might agree, or have your own list. The important thing is that “personality does matters”. When hiring a Project Manager, contract or FTE, be sure to thoroughly evaluate every candidate’s personality. Judging personality is subjective, so involve others in the screening process. You can also use DiSC, Big Five, or any other personality test.
Remember, no amount of training, experience, or subject expertise can completely overcome character deficit.