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4 Traits of Successful Construction Project Managers


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Being a project manager on a construction site is not easy.

There are practical skills like learning how to budget or set up a comprehensive schedule. And then there are characteristics you either need to adopt or hone in on. Whether you are looking for a change in career or want to improve your current position, here are 4 traits of a successful construction project manager.

1. More than just a paycheck. Project managers will be tested to their limits. This means long days and nights, tedious weather and building conditions, and a variety of people and personalities. All of this plus the the pressure of constant deadlines, mean PMs must have a strong passion for their job.

2. You are not a dictator. Being in a leadership position does not mean you can hand out demands. This job requires the ability to work with a wide variety of personalities and perspectives and work should be collaborative. Being a people-person also makes it much easier to endure the rigors of construction. 

Anthony D. Songer and Paul S. Chinowsky, authors of Organizational Management in Construction lay out a new model for construction leadership. This model focuses on developing leaders in three directions: intellectually, practically, and emotionally. The authors claim it’s the emotional aspect of leadership where the construction industry needs the most improvement. 

While the construction leaders discussed by the authors had a high tolerance for stress, and were independent and optimistic, they were weak in empathy, interpersonal relationships and social responsibility. As the industry tries to evolve and become more collaborative and integrative, the lack of these crucial traits will hamper its progress. 

3. Monkey see, monkey do. You can become a better leader by observing other leaders you admire and practicing what you observe. It takes time and effort, but it’s a highly valued trait. 

And the number one skill?

4. Communication. Throughout a career in construction project management, you’ll work with many different people: architects, engineers, bankers, insurance underwriters, company heads, foremen, superintendents, workers, suppliers, inspectors and more. You will have to learn to adjust your communication style accordingly and will have to sharpen communication skills overall. 

While you can learn about effective communication techniques, putting them into practice often requires unlearning the poor communication habits you’ve practiced for years. When researchers asked construction professionals what trait was most required for effective construction managers, the majority listed communication skills as number one.

In some ways, the most successful construction project managers blend these traits with their experience and education. They also tend to have a continual desire to learn and aren’t afraid of calculated risk. When combined, these traits make all the difference between being good at managing construction projects, and being excellent.

Did we miss anything? What traits do you think make for a successful project manager?