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What Do Team Members Want From Their Project Manager?
By Bruce McGraw

There are character traits that most of us would like to believe we possess and that we want to find in the people we work with and work for: trust, integrity, respect, and honesty—sort of like the mantra of the Boy Scouts. Good project managers have those traits and others that make people want to work for them.

What are the traits and behaviors that team members want in their project leader or immediate boss? Here are my observations from being a project manager and observing other PMs—some that were effective and valued and others who were pariahs that employees did everything they could to avoid.

Behaviors Team Members Want in a Project Manager

  • Information sharing. What is happening? What is likely to happen? What effect will it have on me and on the project? Project managers often have access to the thinking and plans of senior management. Although your team does not want to know every machination going on in the larger organization, they want you to be aware and to share information with them in a timely fashion.
    • If you don’t know—say so.
    • If you can’t say because you are under a promise of confidentiality—don’t lie. Promise to get the information or temporize with a promise to provide answers as soon as possible.
  • Protection or “executive cover”. Give team members the ability to try things with the security of knowing they will not be offered up in a blame game. Project managers must cover their team on risky tasks or approaches to problems that they have agreed ahead of time; they do not leave them hung out to dry if things go south.
  • Stretch your team with assignments that offer learning opportunities and future advancement potential.
  • Recognize a task or deliverable that is well done and give feedback including upwards in the chain of command. If things don’t go so well, provide guidance and support.
  • Provide a clear understanding of what each team member is responsible for and the metrics that will be used to measure individual’s and project team’s success. Be consistent.
  • Try to solve problems identified by the team whether it is getting a software tool or an adding a resource to off-load some less critical tasks.
  • Be there when the going gets tough—set an example by coming in early, working late, taking an undesirable shift on occasion.
  • Defend the team from unreasoned and unreasonable demands—when someone says there are four A+ critical projects that must all be done by the end of the week—learn to say no and to compromise with senior managers, marketers, and customers.
  • Treat the team members like people who have live outside the office.

Project Manager Behavior No-No’s

  • Take credit for the work of others.
  • Treat team members you like better than those you do not enjoy as much.
  • Being a buddy instead of the manager.
  • Inconsistency—sometimes it is okay to be late and another time it is “off with their heads”.
  • Negativity and constant pessimism about the company, the project or life in general.
  • Taking over and solving problems that team members need to learn how to solve on their own—not only do you miss a growth opportunity by doing this, but you telegraph your lack of faith in them.
  • Asking an employee to lie.
  • Offering hollow motivations.

You are sincerely invited to add to this list with your comments and experiences.

Bruce A. McGraw is COO/EVP for Cognitive Technologies, a WBE/DBE consulting firm delivering project /program management, collaborative processes, and organizational effectiveness to commercial and government clients ( Bruce has been a program manager for over 25 years and has experience across multiple industries. His ability to craft pragmatic solutions to meet project goals, coupled with experience in all aspects of project management, enables him to meet customer expectations with on-time, within-budget deliveries. Bruce is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and is an active member of the Project Management Institute. Bruce authors a project management blog at Fear No Project and can be contacted at (512) 380-1204 or

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