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So You Want to be a
Engineering Project Manager?

Essential Leadership and Management for Engineers

So You Want to be a Engineering Project Manager?

What qualities do you need to be an effective project manager? Well there is no silver bullet, but there are a number of traits you’ll definitely want to consider, to be the best you can be. However, as a start point please see some of the highly effective information listed in the People Management and Leadership sections. Right, let’s take a look at some of those key traits, the best project managers possess… 


So You Want to be a Engineering Project Manager? Hot Tips: It's all about Great Comms...

Communication Skills

Strong communications skills are key to being an effective project manager, and indeed project management more broadly. The range of people involved makes it particularly important to get communication right. The Project Manager needs to lead by example. They need to actively listen to those in the project team, seeking and acting on feedback.

Project Managers need to make it their priority to get out and about talking to team members, discussing issues, offering advice and generally being visible. Drive the project with your presence. Find out what’s going on. Assess the mood of the project at an operational level, on the ground. Likewise, listening to stakeholders outside the team is vital, such as sponsors, suppliers and of course customers.

Clear and succinct written (typed) communication is equally important in formal project management. Accurate documentation is essential. Templates, instructions and guidance documents can assist this. The Communication Plan, mentioned earlier, identifies what formal and informal communication is needed, including the methods to be used. In short, the communication plan covers the why, when, who, how and where to all stakeholders.


So You Want to be a Engineering Project Manager? Hot Tips: Inspire Others through Your Behaviour


The Project Manager needs to articulate the project vision to others with clarity. In so doing, they should inspire and direct project team members to achieve that vision. Effective leadership also includes motivating others, maintaining momentum and raising moral – invaluable for getting through project obstacles and tough times.

A proficient Project Manager will represent the project to those responsible for governance and scrutiny, as well as with customers and suppliers. They should also lead on ensuring the team have access to all they need to undertake the work, including resources, funds, skills, facilities and personnel.

As leaders, Project Managers should be able to make decisions.  Being decisive requires individuals to be confident and have courage. Decision making relies on the ability to review the evidence, often assess options, before drawing a conclusion. Typically project managers will have to take decisions, whilst taking differing views into account, as well as acting without all the evidence. Decisions can be taken following consultation with those with experience in an area. Other decision making considerations to take into account include priorities, importance and urgency.


So You Want to be a Engineering Project Manager? Hot Tips: Act the Part...

The Behaviour of a Project Manager

So how should a Project Manager behave? Well, for a start all people are different, so project manager or not, try and accentuate the positive aspects of your personality. However there are common traits you would expect a competent Project Managers to exhibit. They should be well organised and able to work to a plan. Evidently this is essential for controlling a project through formal project management documentation.

Project Managers are most effective when they have a positive optimistic attitude. Of course events will test the plan and require tactical decision making. However, if the Project Manager can remain upbeat, they are more likely to carry and influence project team members and stakeholders, therefore increasing the likelihood of successful delivery. Project Managers should also be flexible and adaptable when necessary. This involves being able to think creatively to solve problems and propose solutions, when issues come up that threaten the formal plan.

They should also possess integrity and have the respect of those on the project team, as well as other stakeholders. Driving the project forward will rely on this, particular if there are difficulties. They should be accountable, with the ability to shoulder the responsibilities of their team. Project Managers should be proficient negotiators, capable of influencing others and drawing conclusions that are mutually beneficial. Project managers should be approachable, yet professional and ethical.


So You Want to be a Engineering Project Manager? Hot Tips: There's no 'I' in Team...


Project Managers collaborate with other specialists to work towards common goals – that’s the essence of project management. Many project teams include people with different expertise and knowledge, who collaborate to deliver a set of objectives. The team should be selected from people who have complimentary experience, skills and knowledge.

An effective project team leader should aim to get people to work to their strengths. Plenty of communication between people should minimise misunderstands and clarify expectations. Formal communication such as scheduled meetings, memos and emails facilitate stronger teamwork. Informal communication and meetings keep team members informed, increase moral and motivation, as well as share best practice and encourage continual improvement.

Delegation within the team involves tasking others, clearly spelling out what you want completed by when and for what purpose. It’s important to establish how empowered the individual is to make decisions. Set the boundaries for any authority they will have. Delegation gives team members a sense of purpose and a direct sense of project involvement.


So You Want to be a Engineering Project Manager? Closing Comments...

Project Management Summary

Project Management is an essential, complimentary skill for engineers and technicians. Most technical work is undertaken in the context of a project. As such, if you can understand the setting for your work, you have a greater chance of meeting your objectives. Being able to make outstanding contributions to projects becomes easier if you possess a deeper awareness of the context in which you operate.

Project management experience, even managing a stage of a project, is useful to an engineer’s career progression. New complimentary skills can be gained and practiced. Likewise, successful projects can make a valuable contribution to the business and get you noticed at the same time.

Formal Project Management skills are in demand across a range of industry sectors. It is a transferable skill employers are prepared to pay for, with salaries increasing according to experience, as well as project size and value. Also, working on projects provides a strong sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as milestones are completed.

Formal Project Management methodologies and qualifications are available and are valued by engineering organisations. They demonstrate understanding and competence to a high standard. They can be sourced online and from local colleges and training centres. Examples worth finding out more about include:


PRINCE2 Project Management


Association for Project Management


Project Management Institute


International Project Management Association


Engineering Project Manager

Back to Essential Leadership and Management Skills  

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