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Every project team takes on at least a little bit of its project manager’s personality. If the PM is disorganized and careless, the team will almost certainly miss deadlines and produce substandard deliverables, even if the same team members have performed well on other projects. In the same way, teams working under a harsh, unfriendly PM are very likely to experience internal conflicts. On the other hand, a calm, organized and collaborative project manager can encourage teamwork and high performance, even under difficult conditions.

For a project manager, developing the right set of personality traits is every bit as important as learning project management skills like how to build a project plan or run a meeting. From keeping cool under pressure to staying organized, here are a few of the top personality traits of highly effective project managers.

A Positive Attitude

Attitudes, good or bad, are infectious, and nothing can doom a project faster than a project manager who’s preoccupied with failure. Even when the stakes are high and the challenges are daunting, a good project manager needs to give the impression that he or she expects the team to succeed. Whether in large-group meetings or in one-on-one interactions with team members, PMs should try to maintain a positive attitude at all times. After all, if the PM assumes the project will fail, is there any incentive for the team to succeed?

Honesty

Trust between team members is essential on any project, and trust is built on honesty. Project managers should make it a policy to be completely honest when setting expectations at the beginning of a project and when providing feedback or status reports throughout the project. Even when the news isn’t necessarily good, it’s better for team members and other stakeholders to hear it straight the first time, rather than to discover that they’ve been misled after the fact.

Good Listening and Communication Skills

Listening skills are another of the critically important qualities of a good manager. Not only can they help you ensure that you understand the project requirements and expectations in the first place, they can help you identify potential problems and identify gaps that might otherwise have been missed. And since communication is a two-way street, a project manager also needs the ability to explain project timelines, assignments and status updates in a way that all stakeholders can understand, regardless of their familiarity with the project.

Organization

Keeping track of dozens of items—tasks, deliverables, meetings and approval requests, just to name a few—is business as usual for a project manager, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you aren’t an extremely organized person by nature, you can still succeed as a project manager by working to develop strategies for time management and prioritization. A good enterprise project management solution like Clarizen can also help you stay on top of your multiple responsibilities.

The Ability to Take Criticism

Every project manager takes some heat now and then, whether it comes from a customer, executive or even from an unhappy team member. Handling criticism gracefully is another highly important characteristic of a project manager. If you get defensive or combative when someone complains about your work, you’ll likely only make the situation worse. Successful project managers work to find constructive responses to criticism, and to turn potentially damaging situations into highly productive conversations.

Jen Howard
Jen is responsible for Clarizen's corporate positioning, market awareness and global events. She is a marketing professional with a proven track record of executing comprehensive marketing strategies to support business goals and objectives for technology start-ups. Most recently, Jen was corporate marketing manager at Marketo (NASDAQ: MKTO), where she was responsible for media coverage, analyst relations, the CEO’s social media profile and corporate events. Previously, Jen was the marketing and events manager at Autonet Mobile, the first internet-based telematics company and wireless internet service provider designed for vehicles (now part of Lear Corporation (NYSE: LEA). Jen holds a B.A. in art history from the University of California, Santa Barbara.