The Ideal Project Manager

ideal project manager

When you tackle fulfilling the ideal project manager role, you should know that it is a challenging one. Attention-to-detail, multitasking, and organizational skill sets are necessary to help everyone on the team stay organized and on schedule.

Some software development companies and small creative agencies can’t always afford a full-time project manager. But, remember, project managers help the team feel supported and provide accountability necessary to do their best work. So, if you must play the ideal project manager role, you should know a little more about what is expected.

The ideal project manager role includes you acting as the:

  • go-between
  • messenger
  • cheerleader
  • babysitter
  • mom or dad
  • alarm clock
  • mission control
  • problem solver
  • mind reader
  • listener
  • politician
  • confidante, and
  • catch-all for everything else

Some days you will be the good guy; others you will be the bad guy. And, if you do your job well, you will always be all of these things. You will also be respected.

Your role is to manage projects so the various players can perform their jobs without worrying about the details. Therefore, all the administrative and workflow processes – and issues surrounding them – are yours to handle. Playing the ideal project manager role allows creatives and system architects to conceive ideas, production and developers to implement them, and sales and account management to focus on strategy and concentrate on insights.

Facilitating the Process

Basically, the project manager role facilitates the process of getting things from idea to implementation.

Consequently, knowing the processes and procedures, and executing tasks, are not enough to successfully play the ideal project manager role. You must also be a problem solver. Therefore, you must always present options on how to solve every problem that you encounter. Just presenting the problem isn’t enough.

Additionally, you must remember to be flexible and accommodating to the client’s needs and to those of the team. You might have to modify standard processes or procedures, using your best judgment, to satisfy your team and your client.

To that end, if you don’t understand the reasons behind the process, you put your ideal project manager role at risk. If in doubt, ask an expert to steer you in the right direction. Most of all, remember, no one expects you to know everything. But, people do expect you to ask. Acting like you have knowledge that you don’t can be dangerous.

You also must demonstrate great patience. Since, by its nature, deadline-oriented work is stressful, you will be working with people who are under a lot of stress. You have to keep team members calm, extracting the emotion from situations and presenting a path forward.

The Ideal Project Manager

I have managed close to 50 project managers over my career. (Don’t worry… I didn’t manage them all at once.) What I noticed above all is that ideal project managers need to look at the big picture and the details all at once. Without question, a project manager handles the details. But, ideal project managers will be able to see the big picture as well and present solutions in the context of the overall business need.

The ideal project manager can be very hard to find. And, most people struggle if they are trying to manage projects while fulfilling the role of business owner and/or technician (creative, developer or otherwise). Don’t underestimate the need for someone who intentionally tries to push projects forward. Consider adding a project manager to help you get your life back.


Thanks to Randy Isaacson, President of Stori Health, Inc., and a former co-worker, for the topic idea. To address part 2 of his topic idea, next time I’ll cite some real-life examples of what a really good project manager looks like – as well as what mediocre and bad look like. (And, of course, I’ll change the names to protect the innocent.)

About Susan Fennema

Susan helps you gain control of your business through process development, organization, and structure of your business operations and projects. From developing processes to coaching project managers, she can help you get beyond the chaos.
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