Good vs Bad Project Managers – Side-by-Side Comparison

10 min. read

Project Managers are the project delivery team leads in many organizations. If the organization is medium to large in size, project managers belong to a Project Management Office typically. There are good vs bad project managers. The role of a Project Management Officer or PMO manager must be facilitating good project management and ensuring good project managers are rising in a PMO. How can we differentiate good vs bad project managers?

Good vs Bad Project Managers

  • Good project managers lead, bad PMs manage
  • The good PMs are proactive, bad PMs are reactive
  • Good PMs are analytical, bad PMs decide based on rumors
  • The good PMs take accountability, bad PMs blame the team or others

We will go over the characteristics of the good vs bad project managers in this post.

Good vs Bad Project Managers

You should have faced several PMs in your professional life. I am sure some of them had substantial bad images while others had a positive memorable experience. We will go over the differences between good vs bad project managers in this post. See the signs of poor project management.

1- Good PMs lead, bad PMs manage

Good project managers are leaders. They lead and mentor the team. Bad PMs just manage the tasks, direct people but do not show leadership. Though this may not sound like a significant difference, the level of influence of the good PM and the bad PM on the team is not trivial.

Bad PMs

When the bad PMs are managing the team, they give less intellectual space to the team to show their creativity. Since the PMs keep the decision making power to themselves, the teams can’t grow beyond some point, as they should. Moreover, the pressure of the PM to meet the targets often causes unnecessary fatigue to the resources. A bad project manager delegates less work to the team. They trust their team less and want to micromanage them from time to time. They rarely ask their team for inputs or ideas nor does he converse with his team enough. So there is very little information exchanged between them and the team. These are just some of the many things that you face when you are working under a bad PM.

Good PMs

On the other hand, when luckily you have a good PM, they would be leading you through an open-concept workspace. You will feel free to initiate tasks, create new ideas, make decisions, knowing you will not be criticized, but rather be lead through the journey. You will never feel that someone superior to you is supervising you all the time. The good PMs will be showing you how to do things and also support you whenever you will need them. They will also lead you on the projects from the front, even if it’s a battle with a mountain. They will consider your success as their success.

So comparing good vs bad project managers, the good PM who leads his team throughout the project is more successful and more accepted by the team. In today’s complex and multi-cultural project environments, the bad PMs are not easily accepted by the project teams. It’s because they are considered to be a negative influence and friction in their productivity.

2- Good PMs are proactive, bad PMs are reactive

Good PMs watch the project and also the outside effects proactively. They try to seize if anything will affect the project before it happens. On the other hand, bad PMs are reactive. They do not take action unless a risk happens or when its effects become prominent. This is obviously not the right approach as it may harm the project and the business badly.

Good PMs

The good PMs are proactive managers, as they are constantly predicting the future and devising decisions with their critical eyes. It is very important to be proactive, especially when you are working in an uncertain or complex workplace. Why is it very important, you may wonder? Well, there are always changing business needs and changing customer requirements, which need to be addressed properly. Moreover, no project would be free of issues. Issues related to cost, resources, planning, and other things will surely occur. Hence, you need to proactively see what could happen in the future and have a ready plan to deal with such anticipated situations.

Bad PMs

The reactive PMs are often not open to change. And, they do not think ahead of time. Due to this characteristic, they do not make an effort to plan the best moves to prevent failures or issues well ahead of time. Since they are not looking at the future, they fail to address the situations that may suddenly pop up. Consequently, they face problems and in turn, the project also suffers.

The future is very difficult to predict accurately. But, you may have heard the popular quote many times “prevention is better than cure”. So, it is always better to plan for the possible threats beforehand rather than letting them happen and then think about how to deal with them. Once the issue has occurred, it is more difficult as well as costlier to fix it at that time. So, being proactive rather than reactive prepares you, your team, and your project for future events. And, it saves you from the sudden unforeseen troubles and the stress later.

3- Good vs Bad Project Managers: Good PMs are analytical, bad PMs only hear rumors

Being analytical refers to an individual’s ability to identify problems, investigate the relevant facts and determine a logical solution. Analytical skills are used when observing and collecting data, brainstorming ideas, interpreting data, and making decisions based on a specific situation. Analytical skills are very important in many different fields. The project managers must possess many analytical skills and apply them to their work.

Good PMs

If you are working as a project manager, you must have a good level of analytical skills. At work, you may have to find solutions to many problems and make hard decisions. Only if you are analytical, you can find suitable outcomes. An analytical PM would have the ability to think about anything out of the box. They would analyze the ideas and examine them carefully. They would decide based on facts and figures. Moreover, analytical PMs tend to be highly knowledgeable about the area of their work. Their team members can blindly rely on them and have no hesitation in following in their footsteps.

Bad PMs

Bad PMs look a lot for the rumors in the team. They listen to what people say about a case and decide based on what is talked about by the folks. This is indeed true. The non-analytical PMs do not keep enough information with them. And they do not seek information to base their decisions on. And, since they rely mostly on the talks in the air, their plans and decisions are often inaccurate. They tend to give unrealistic milestones and illogical ideas. These things then result in issues and challenges down the road.

4- Good vs Bad Project Managers: Good PMs are servant leaders, bad PMs are authoritative managers

Servant leaders are the ones who focus on the growth and development of their people. Their main goal is to serve their team and address their needs. So although they are leaders, they strive to serve others, rather than take control and exercise power.

Good vs Bad PMs

Good PMs are servant leaders and help their teams to improve while they are delivering their project. The authoritative project managers, on the contrary, show the policies, steps, and things to do in their day-to-day office work. They set your working limits and dictate to you how you should work. They do not participate enough in the project work but instead expect the team to complete all the tasks. So what’s wrong if you have authoritative management at your workplace? Well, for those employees who are accustomed to work freely and make own decisions, such a style of management may appear to them as overbearing. Authoritative management can even cause employees to rebel.

It is not too bad to be authoritative and show the team the policies, steps, and other important things. However, if you involve yourself in the project activities as a servant leader, your team is motivated and follow your steps. The team also gets from you emotional, technical, and management support in their day-to-day work. Since the PM is a senior position, they possess a lot of knowledge and experience to share. And when they do that, the efficiency and productivity of the team obviously increase.

Comparing good vs bad project managers in terms of preference, a good PM will always get high preference than the authoritative manager. Since the good manager would be acting as a servant leader, the resources will prefer to have them by their side. The teams will feel more comfortable working with them. Since the servant leaders are working closely with their team members, listening and helping them throughout the project, they are actually fostering a fearless work environment.

5- Good vs Bad Project Managers: Good PMs take accountability, bad PMs blame the team or others

Good project managers take accountability for the success or failure of the project. Bad project managers will blame others such as customers, suppliers, project teams, or other things. If an issue happens, they would try to save their faces by putting the blame on someone else. Such managers come to the notice of the project team and so they don’t get any motivation from them. Furthermore, the team members do not rely enough on their decisions or trust their plans. And, since they know that these PMs may blame them any time, they work under pressure. They also get under stress easily, and as a result, lose focus to work.

It is natural for anyone to feel humiliated or belittled when they are pinpointed for blame. And, if it is really no one’s fault and someone blames them, they would surely take it as unfair treatment. That employee may lose their morale. They may even want to leave the project or the organization where they are working.

On the other hand, a good PM takes accountability for everything, whether good or bad. They are effective because of their ability to motivate, influence, and inspire. They provide vision and direction. Also, they understand the personal desires, emotions, and worries of their teams and treat them accordingly.

When they are taking accountability for all their decisions, words, actions, and outcomes, they are more trusted. Their team starts to follow them, without a doubt. Moreover, there will be more chance for improved performance and results for your organization.

Summary: Good vs Bad Project Managers

For understanding the differences between good vs bad project managers, we looked at various factors like whether they take accountability or not. Moreover, we examined how helpful they are to their team, do they support them in their work or just give orders to get the jobs done.

Comparing good vs bad project managers, we looked at how analytical they are. If they are analytical, they will align themselves with the organization’s vision or the project’s objectives. They will understand the project and the arising issues well before giving ideas and making decisions. They will never rely on rumors or misinformation.

We all like to excel in what we do. When we are putting our effort towards our goals, we want to know what bad and good looks like.  Similarly, when it comes to a project manager, we should look for a good project manager.

In this post, we compared the good vs bad project managers. We explained how good and bad managers work and get things done. You now have had a better understanding of the worth of both types of managers. So, if you an option to choose between good vs bad project managers, which one you will choose? Certainly, you would choose to be a good project manager!

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