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Strategic Quotient: Part I
March 12, 2019 |

[A regular blog series by Kristus Ratliff with observations, ideas, and lessons-learned on how to be better project managers through effective strategic thinking and emotional intelligence. If EQ = emotional quotient (how you show up) and IQ = intelligence quotient (part of what you bring to the table) then SQ = strategic quotient (everything in between)]

When I started writing this blog, I thought I had come up with this clever, new topic.

Then I googled the phrase “why do people hate project managers” and boom, hundreds of hits came up. Confirmation that although this is not a new topic, people are in agreement that working with bad project managers is draining, painful, and frustrating.

I know it’s odd for a project manager to be so critical of their own profession. But here’s the thing: I’ve been working as a project manager for over 10 years and I know for a fact that we often deserve the bad press we get. In some cases, the rumors are true. I think we can all recount a story about a frustrating interaction with a bad project manager. All it takes is someone asking you for task updates three times a day—for you to completely lose it.

Unfortunately, we hear about the failures more than the successes. And those are not the whole story.

I am proud of what I do, and love being a project manager. I believe that project managers are essential members of successful teams. We can even really make or break the outcome of a project.

Effective project managers are excellent people managers and strategic problem solvers, able to view the big picture while managing minute details simultaneously. They lead their teams through complex projects and gain the trust and support of their clients.

If great project managers are essential to success and ineffective project managers are damaging to teams and outcomes, what makes them different? What makes good project managers awesome (and bad ones terrible)?

Below, I’ve broken down the behaviors and skills that I believe really separate effective project managers from those who are ineffective. You might have seen similar charts on LinkedIn (the most famous on “leaders”) but this rings true to the dos and don’ts I’ve developed.

Effective Project Managers

Ineffective Project Managers

Build long-term client relationships by delivering what the client “really” wants (and needs) while protecting the financial integrity of the project.

Follow the contract to the letter and overlook the “spirit” and intent.

Focus on the overall goal of the project, helping their team meet deadlines by removing blockers and barriers to success.

Tightly manage minor aspects of the team’s day-to-day workflow, checking boxes and managing to arbitrary deadlines.

Are skilled communicators and team builders who foster collaboration and trust with clients and internal teams.

Trust metrics and processes more than the people they work with.

Are engaged in the day-to-day operations of the project and can always give an accurate update on status if asked.

Are disengaged and rely heavily on system reports or frequent check-ins to stay up to date.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be digging deeper into the strategic and emotional traits of excellent project managers. I haven’t always been perfect, *wink*; but I’ll be sharing some of my lessons-learned so that you never again have someone roll their eyes at you, as you ask for—yet another—status update.


Project Management
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