The Good vs. Best Project Managers: What Differentiates the Two

In managing different projects, with different people and different outcomes, I’ve noticed that with practice, it’s not too terribly difficult to become a good project manager.

As long as you’re responsive to client needs, effective at managing your team members (if you’re of a larger organization), great at active listening, and an overall decent communicator, you’ll get the project done. Good project managers work hard to maintain client satisfaction, and they make sure there are no loose ends untied.

So why aren’t the good project managers the best? There’s one characteristic I’ve noticed that distinctively separates the two: breaking outside the boundary.

No, this isn’t some ‘think outside the box’ cliché. Rather, by breaking outside the boundary, I’m referring to project managers who are capable of and motivated by the extra effort involved in helping others. And by others, I don’t mean just the client – I mean team members, associates of the client, vendors, partners, and any other third party who is connected in some way to the project.

Good project managers are good because they stay within the boundary, encircling the borders of the project to ensure everything is done properly and on time, and they never break the contract – instead, they follow it exactly as promised. But the best project managers don’t care about the constraints of the boundary. If a project takes a little longer than the allotted hours, they don’t stop work and demand more money – they get the work done and brush off the two extra hours they spent creating an awesome client experience. Or, if a client calls about an issue with their computer, the best project managers don’t employ an annoyed tone and point the client away – they do what they can to help the client.

The best project managers may end up spending more time on projects and making a tad less money than they could if they billed every minute, but that’s in the short-term. Good project managers think about today, the best ones think about tomorrow. Good project managers create satisfactory client experiences, but the best ones generate awesomely fantastic experiences. And in the long run, the best project managers end up with more repeat business and a higher number of referrals.

Smart clients realize that money isn’t everything when it comes to a web project. They also factor in experience. The best project managers can deliver this experience.

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