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Selecting a Protégé From Your Project Team

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It is always good to groom talent internally to fill vacant positions in the company. It saves cost, effort and time -- all the important aspects of a successful project. 

I like to think of grooming a project team member as another project.

To ensure that 'project' is successful, a project manager should look for possible candidates that match certain characteristics. In my opinion, the following are among the characteristics a manager should look for in potential project managers (in no particular order):

1. Friendliness

A project manager must be able to communicate effectively. Friendliness is a good trait to have because more often than not, a friendly person is able to get information from the least communicative person.

2. Willingness to learn

Learning happens all the time in managing projects. Even the most seasoned project managers still learn something new from each new project.

3. Vision

A project manager must be focused in seeing a project through until it is completed -- or halted. He or she must have a clear vision to be able to steer the project team to fulfill the project goals.

4. Organized 

And this doesn't mean the project manager's workstation. The information that the project manager shares must be organized and structured to ensure clarity and understanding to the recipients.

5. Diplomatic

In a project, conflicts will arise -- even from something as minor as a missing network cable, for example. A project manager must be able to act objectively, as a mediator and be able see the whole picture.

6. Firm

When making decisions or providing direction, a project manager needs to be firm. Not every decision will be popular. Resistance may occur, but the project manager must stick to her or his ground.

This, by no means, is an exhaustive list of characteristics that a project management protégé must have. But I do believe these are the fundamental criteria that a project manager should possess to be effective and successful.

What criteria do you look for in a project team member when grooming him or her to be a project manager? What other characteristics do you feel are important for someone who wants to be a project manager? 


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While there are benefits to internal promotions to fill in vacancies, this cannot be done in isolation of the increased skills, efficiencies and positive changes that can be brought into the project environment if vacancies are filled externally; by a candidate with the requisite qualifications and experience.

The other aspects I look in the prospective candidates are
1. Team building
2. Leading by example
3. Motivator
4. Communication skills
5. Quick learner

More than the project manager projecting his protege, the protege should be able to exhibit his characteristics for winning over the team.

One important one not listed is stakeholder management. A good project manager must have the ability to manage the expectations of all stakeholders at the team level (team's do have a stake in the project) to upper management and executives to vendors and customers. This is vital skill to remove impediments, relieve bottlenecks and ensure you can escalate issues up and down the chain as well as articulate the status of your project and make your stakeholders confident you are on top of your project.

First I look for someone with outstanding oral and written communication skills. Then I look for a member of the web team with a broad technical and busness background who has the respect of the team and who wants to be a manager for the right reasons - they want to make the team successful. They must also be able to mentor without micromanaging (a characteristic that is harder than you would think to find in a potential candidate,) and they make an effort to establish good working relationships with other divisions or departments. Finally, I look for someone who believes that they will be successful if their team is successful and who has the confidence to stand up and take responsibilities for errors rather than play the blame game.

Hi Hajar,

Do you think the idea of choosing a protege is a good one - especially when it comes for the project manager?

In most cases, this whole thing fires back and the whole team will hate the protege, and the project manager.

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