Project Management

10 signs that you aren't cut out to be a project manager


You've all seen top 10 lists of the best traits of a project manager or the top 10 skills of a project manager. However, project management is not for everyone. Many people have some of the traits to be a good project manager, but they also have many traits that make them a bad fit for the position.Here's my list of indications that you may not be well suited to be a project manager. Note: These are not in any ranked order.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: You are a poor communicator

It is said that more than 50% of a project manager's time is spent in some aspect of communication. This includes meetings, status reporting, e-mails, phone calls, coordinating, talking to people, and completing documentation. Some studies have shown that verbal and written communication takes up 80% of the job. If you are not an effective communicator (and you don't care to be), don't go down this path.

#2: You don't work well with people

If you prefer to stay in your office and focus on your own work, you probably don't have the collaborative ability to be a good project manager. Good project managers need to spend a lot of time with clients, stakeholders, and team members.

#3: You prefer the details

Many people like to work on the project details. We need people like that. But when you are a project manager, you must rise above the details and become more of a delegator and coordinator. You must rely on others for much of the detailed work when you are a project manager.

#4: You don't like to manage people

You don't have much of a project if you're the only resource. If you want to be a good project manager, you need to be able to manage people. You will not have 100% responsibility for people, but you will need to show leadership, hold them accountable, manage conflict, etc. Some project managers say they could do a much better job if they did not have to deal with people. If that's how you feel, project management is probably not for you.

#5: You don't like to follow processes

Yes, I know no one wants to be a slave of processes. But you need good processes to be effective as your projects get larger. If you don't want to follow good project management processes, you are not going to get too far as a manager.

#6: You don't like to document things

Of course, all things in moderation. I am not proposing that you have to love documenting to be a good project manager. But you can't hate it, either. Many aspects of project management require some documentation, including status reporting, communication plans, scope changes, and Project Charters.

#7: You like to execute and not plan

When a client gives you a project, what is your first inclination? If your first thought is to get a team together to start executing the work, you probably don't have a project management mindset. If you do not want to spend the appropriate amount of time to make sure you understand what you are doing, you are probably not cut out to be a project manager.

#8: You prefer to be an order taker

If you think your job is to take orders from the customer and execute them, you may not be a good project manager. Project managers need to provide value on a project, including pushing back when the client is asking for things that are not right. If the client raises a request that is out of scope, you also need to invoke the scope change management process. If your reaction to scope change is saying, "Yes sir, we'll do it" instead of going through the scope change management process, project manage is going to be a struggle for you.

#9: You are not organized

People who have poor personal organization skills and techniques usually do not make good project managers. If you're going to manage multiple people over a period of time, you need to be well organized to make sure that everyone is doing what he or she needs to do as efficiently as possible.

#10: You think project management is "overhead"

No one can feel good about their job if they think the work they perform is not value-added. Good project managers understand the value of their work, and they understand their work will result in a project coming in on time and on budget with a good experience for the client and the project team. If you think the work associated with project management is overhead and non value-added, you're probably not the right person to be a project manager yourself.

11 comments
Sweetazbro
Sweetazbro

Great article, although I fall into some of these categories. I would consider myself a Junior PM having come from a developer background. I do struggle with hot headed clients and others who try to lie to push things into the scope. Howeve I fo enjoy the interactions with the project team, it's just the client is my weakness. Telling them of delays or issues is also hard. However I've only done about 8-10 projects and with each I'm getting better so gives me something to work towards. Anyone know of any good resources?

dadavis5th
dadavis5th

I have been managing projects for 20+ years and I think there are a couple things I would change in the list. First I have found that you have to sweat the details to have a clear view of your critical path and how much resources need to be added where to mitigate critical path items. Secondly, people management represents very different skills in Government sector vs. Private sector, and in addition I think your list should list can navigate politically charged environments. This goes beyond strong communication skills to stakeholders in management and staff, as a PM must understand how to navigate and get program champions from upper organizational channels. Accomplishing this may be comfortable for some in the private sector where cost and ROI are always good leverage tools for communication and buy in, but not in Government where delivery date is fare more important to management than the completeness of the accomplishment. For me this aspect is the hardest to mitigate in the Government sector. Alston Davis Baltimore, MD Program Manager / SE Architect

jabermudez
jabermudez

In my experience, I have seen a lot of times Bad Project Managers doing a lot of overwork, checking all the work than other member of their teams should have done, only because they are the finally responsible of the success of the Project. The Good Project Manager should trust in his team and understand than there are several ways to do the same things. Making a clear map of responsibilities and accountabilities to all the team members, and good communication plan help to achive this

exclaim
exclaim

Nice list. I think the "rising above details is a tough one for a lot of people who - dare I use the word "evolve"? - from the technical fields. I have two engineering degrees and that was tough for me... ((Shameless Plug)) read more about this at my blog, Scope Crepe, http://scopecrepe.blogspot.com

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

As always, I mostly agree with what Tom says. However, I do have a problem with two of the items ..... Item 10 ... sorry but project management is an overhead. An absolutely necessary and value-added overhead but an overhead ne'er-the-less. Unless you recognize that it is an overhead you'll never recognize when to cut back. Not all projects require a full-blown project management methodology ... and providing less than required is a good way to design a train wreck. (Besides, AP & Payroll are both overhead departments ... see how long your company lasts without either!) Item #3 ... You like the details. The trick is in recognizing what constitutes a detail to a project manager. A project manager who ignores his own details is a failure waiting for a place to happen as has been stated by others (although, scarily enough, many do succeed for years). However, a detail to a project manager, a scheduler, an end-user/client, a business analyst and a programmer are all different. A project manager who falls into the someone-else's-details trap is also fated to fail (or is in definite need of more work).

nhammond
nhammond

I think someone with the above characteristics isn't cut out to be a lot of things... #1 and #2 alone eliminate pretty much any position that involves interfacing with the public or any diverse group of people.

pauldg
pauldg

Having been in project management all my working life, (I am NOT an accidental project manager) I find the best project managers sweat the details. Yes, they delegate, but they also follow up and follow through. For a good example of someone I consider to be a "good" project manager, is Rudy Giuliani. Read his book "Leadership" to get a better sense of the big picture thinker, detail, action oriented executor. Of all the major differences I've found between merely good and great projects managers, are those who are detail oriented end up with SUCCESSFUL projects. Leave the vision stuff to the MBA's..... If I want to see a successful project, give me a person who can see the forest, but has the ability to deal with each tree. For those interested, I have been working with Dr. Dan Harrison, Harrison Assessments www.harrisonassessments.com to develop a profile of what most people would consider to be "successful" project managers. For the initial report, please feel free to email me, or for those who want to participate in further research on the topic, we would like to collaborate with you. BR, Dr. Paul Giammalvo, CDT, PMP, CCE, MScPM Jakarta, Indonesia

sparent
sparent

"The term overhead is usually used when grouping expenses that are necessary to the continued functioning of the business but cannot be immediately associated with the products or services being offered (i.e., do not directly generate profits)." - Wikipedia My time as a project manager is client billable which means that I contribute to the profit by generating revenue. Even if that was not so, the management of the project directly impacts the expenses around the delivery of the product or service thereby affecting the profit made on the project.

info
info

I agree with Pauldg, you need to be detail oriented.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

To them you are a service, to the people paying the bill, you are an overhead... IT people as cost centre versus revenue generator has been done to death. Don't want to go there. If you don't realise business see us as an overhead, you've been asleep at the wheel.

sparent
sparent

I'm sorry, Tony, that you have only been exposed to businesses that see project management as an overhead. I've been with companies ranging from SMB to Fortune 100 and they all understood the value of project management. I worked as an organizational unit manager with a budget. I know the difference between direct, indirect and overhead costs. Project management was always a direct costs.