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Managing Capital Projects – PM Selection

I have been part of over 200 million dollars in project implementation. These projects have ranged from $5K to $10MM. Hundreds of projects, each with its own unique challenges. The unique challenges almost always arise from the cast of characters involved in the execution. Some want minimal involvement, and some are control freaks, while others are egomaniacs. Every now and then the right chemistry comes together for an amazing experience. Capital projects are hard and messy, with lots of moving pieces. The most successful project managers in my experience have a high level of emotional intelligence coupled with confidence and an ego that is in check. They don’t care who gets the credit. They just want a successful execution and implementation. It is highly desirable to have a project manager that is very collaborative. The characteristics of an ideal project manager are:

-Emotionally Intelligent
-Low Ego
-High Follow-through
-Great Communicator
-Clear Priorities
-Offers Direct Feedback
-Clearly Articulates Expectations
-Team Player
-Financially Literate
-Schedule Driven
-Sense of Urgency
-Honest & Sincere

To be clear, this is my list. I compiled this list of characteristics by observing the most effective and least effective project managers. The most common failures of managers:
1. Grasping for all the glory. They want credit for every success but blame everyone else for the mistakes
2. Poor communication. Nothing sinks a project faster than a project manager unable to communicate expectations to the team. They operate in a vacuum resulting in total failure or everyone trying to pull a last-minute rabbit out of the hat.
3. Low follow-through. They tell everyone in the project what they are going to do and then completely fail to follow through. This causes them to lose credibility with the team and suppliers.
4. Low confidence. These project managers let the customer push them around. They have the best intentions but lose all credibility with the team because they never push back. If a request is unreasonable, these project managers get steamrolled and jeopardize any chance of success.
5. Bad-mouthers. Ever worked with a guy that bashes whoever is not in the room? This is most often the result of low self-esteem and detrimental to project success. These program managers complain about everything and are always casting blame. It might be to cover up for their own shortcomings, or a bad childhood. Regardless, they are no fun to be around and definitely don’t build highly functional teams to execute projects.
6. The know-it-all. You can’t tell them squat because they have it all figured out. From politics to processes, they have the answers and enjoy telling you all about them. Don’t you dare challenge them because you are deemed to be undermining their authority. Deep down, they fear being wrong and fear failure. The only people that stick with these folks have no other options.

The project leader’s role is similar to that of a coach. They put together the game plan, pick the roster, monitor progress, and adjust as necessary. They cheer the team on and reprimand if warranted. They share in the glory and never speak ill of a team member to others. They have high standards and live up to them. Steady, high integrity and grit define the best of these leaders. People get in line to be on their team because they know the project will be a success.

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