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Top 6 Characteristics of an effective Project Manager

Project Managers play a vital role in the success or failure of a project being the captain of the ship. Every organisation recognizes the importance of an effective project manager. What makes these project managers click?

We have compiled a list of 6 characteristics of an effective project manager. The characteristics are not presented in any specific order.

Follow the KISS principle

“Keep it simple, stupid” – The KISS principle was coined by Kelly Johnson while working on airplane designs for Lockheed Martin. He and his team were designing spy airplanes for war zones. His goal was to make a spy plane, which could be repaired by using simple tools and techniques, so that even average mechanic can repair it in the war zones. He was not trying to make the best spy plane but a simple to use war plane which served the functional purpose.

Warren Buffet once said: “There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.”

Let’s take an example of an e-commerce website. An e-commerce website is meant to facilitate the online purchase of a product, generating revenue. You may aim to make the best looking website with lots of bells and whistles but, at the end of the day, users must be able:

  • To search the products easily and
  • To make the payment, even as a guest

If your website does not provide these two basic features mentioned above, all your effort is futile, even if you end up making the best looking e-commerce website in the world.

So the great project managers keep it simple as much as possible to achieve their business goals or objectives.

Set the expectations rights

One of the important traits of a project manager is to set the expectations right, be it for team members or customers. We may call it as expectations management but it plays a crucial role. One of my seniors always advised me to follow a simple maxim – “Promise less and deliver more”. Instead, what most managers do is the exact opposite.

However, having handled many projects myself, I have to admit that it is not possible every time because the sales team have already over committed in winning the deal. In that case, read the next point.

Know how to get things done

I, personally, feel that this is the most important characteristics of a great project manager. Pulling the right strings at the right time is vital. Be it a team member or a shared services in the organisation, great project managers know how to get things done. If a team member is not delivering, they will sit with him at his desk to get the things done by encouraging or helping him. If a shared services group like infrastructure services, is not moving as fast as it should (for getting a piece of hardware), they know how to use a customer or senior management threat to make it faster.

So, It’s basically “horses for courses”. But just be little creative to get things done.

Know your subject

All great project managers, understand the language of the customer as well as the team members. You don’t need to be an expert in that domain, be it technology or business but be good enough to understand the context yourself. You should not need an interpreter to understand their language, if it is so, you have lost it. Upgrade yourself, there is plenty available on the internet on every subject. Take a MOOC course or watch a Youtube video, which is free. Just brush up the basics.

Review, Review & Review

One must be a systematic and periodic reviewer to be really successful as a manager. Projects can’t run on auto pilot mode, it needs to be nurtured and controlled. Managers must know, what’s happening in the project, whether right or wrong on a daily basis. A proper reviewing mechanism means setting up the review agenda as well as the frequency. For larger teams, line managers (team leads and project leads) play an important role.

Great project managers are relentless reviewers- unless you know what’s wrong with the project as early as possible- how do you fix it?

Present a calm demeanor

Can you remain calm in the midst of a crisis? Most of us can’t. It’s natural to be upset when things are not going your way. As you might know, software projects carry multiple risks and any of the risks may materialise.

Great project managers are necessarily not the bravest of the souls but they always present a calmer exterior. This is absolutely critical to keep the morale of the team intact. It also gives the impression to everyone (Team, Management and customers alike) that things can be managed, even though it looks bad. Showing calmness – is not an in-born thing, it can be learnt easily.

This article is based on my industry experience and my discussions with my colleagues and seniors in the industry. Let me know if you have any feedback for me on my website below.

Guest post by Abhishek Srivastava at

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