The superpowers each Project Manager should have

With great power comes great responsibility. A hero we need but don’t deserve.

These are examples of thank-you notes written by our teams for their Project Managers. They made us wonder about the heroic qualities PMs should have, so we ran a workshop to identify the PM brand by creating a Project Manager persona that fits our culture and mindset. We came up with a list of PM superpowers… and weaknesses.

Crisis busters: Manage crisis situations

Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash

As a Project Manager, you stand at the forefront of each rough situation. You are the shield that guards the realm of developers. You are with the team through each major crisis to ensure they have all the resources needed to get the job done. You facilitate difficult conversations with the client and take the brunt of any criticism or outburst. This allows the team to focus on their priorities rather than the drama.

When something’s wrong with the project, Who you gonna call?

Just as Ghostbusters caught ghosts, you get rid of any impediments that put the project at risk. And just as ghosts got locked away in boxes, there is always a possibility that a problem will reemerge and jeopardise the project again — so you need to be on high alert.

Your role is to allow the team to shine. It’s not about the popular “take the blame, give credit” rule that can leave you overwhelmed and unmotivated, but about empowering others around you to act and amplifying their natural skills. You are a mentor who guides people to their full potential, even (or maybe especially) if you have a different skill set.

Would Batman really be Batman if it weren’t for Alfred?

Chaos whisperers: Neutralise the team kryptonite

Sometimes things just don’t go well. There is tension within the team, a difference of opinions, or suspicious silence on otherwise active Slack channels. What distinguishes an average PM from a great one is their attitude towards unidentified problems. Whether you think “it will pass, they will figure it out”, or activate your superpower and drag the elephant out of the room by its ears.

You empower the toughest discussions. You also make sure that the caterpillars of discussions turn into butterflies of measurable action points that can make everyone’s lives better. At the same time, you add structure to the chaos. Sometimes, it’s figuring out what’s the top priority, other times, helping the Product Owner really take ownership of the product by restructuring the Backlog, and mitigating the team’s frustration in the face of constant changes.

The Avengers also were at their most heroic after they worked out their differences and focused on a common goal.

Power activators: Push for clear communication

One of the Project Manager’s primary skills is speaking in a way that can be understood by all. Seems trivial, right? But the work that is done by you has two aspects: the one described above that happens in the forefront, often summarised by Retrospectives, and the one happening in the deep shadows of direct feedback.

There is no greater superpower in a PM’s toolbox than the ability to build transparent, honest and mutually beneficial communication with the people involved in a project. As you balance two aspects of the project, business and technology, you may often feel that you lack the knowledge necessary to mediate between them — but in fact, this is your uniqueness. You straddle the border separating the two expertise groups, and your communication skills build a bridge between them.

Shapeshifters: Transform into different roles

When we work with clients, we need to fill in different roles. Sometimes they fit under the standard naming conventions, like Scrum Master or Product Owner. Other times they are tailored to the client’s needs. It can be a sidekick role of a scribe that makes sure every decision is well documented. It can be a coach for the team — or for the client — to help them become a Product Owner. We adjust to our clients’ personalities — be it introverts, extroverts — there is a different way to approach each of these groups. Some have a clear vision of their goals, while others need to be guided.

This extends to everyone you work with: your team, coworkers, internal and external stakeholders. Think of yourself as Rogue from X-men. You should be able to read and feel everyone your work touches.

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

Kryptonite spotters: Watch out for the blind spots

Like superheroes, PMs have their blind spots. One of them is the conviction that everything can be solved through healthy communication. The truth is that sometimes the expert just needs to sit down and do the work: write the code, test the product, create a marketing strategy, or write down user stories. No amount of quality conversation can fix bad work. It’s important to know when to stay silent and create space for focus or for rethinking what has just been said.

With this set of skills, you must gather your party before venturing forth and start the next adventurous project!

Originally published at https://pm-guide.netguru.com.

I’m a highly motivated person in constant pursuit of new development opportunities and outstanding work culture. My motto: Use your brain!

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