Imposter syndrome is real isn’t it? Being a project manager can be so challenging. Sometimes we can get so deep in the weeds of a tricky project or situation and when we finally lift our heads from the trenches covered in twigs and mud, we may wonder if we’re even doing our jobs well or if we’ve chosen the right career path.
As a project manager, the spiel I use when I describe what I do is that my job is to keep projects in scope, on time, and under budget. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t actually had too many projects that fit neatly within those limitations! There are so many factors that can contribute to a project not staying within its set budget, scope, or timeline. And our job as project managers is to recognize those potential factors, decrease their risk or impact, and mitigate issues that do arise. But when problems rear their nasty heads on our projects (and they do rear their heads often), we often internalize and take responsibility for those problems. And that can take a toll on our morale and self-confidence. (I know I’m not the only one.)
I have struggled with this more times than I can count. For a long time, I’ve been the only project manager at the companies where I’ve worked, and it can hard to have a benchmark for what is “good work” when you’re working in a silo. Joining the DPM community has helped me immensely, and when I struggle with imposter syndrome now I am so thankful that my DPM community helps me keep my head on straight.
But, for whatever reason, if you find yourself wondering if you’re succeeding as a project manager, here are 5 ways to help you know if you are indeed a good PM.
Signs You Are Doing A Great Job
1. You are Doing A Great Job When You Care About Your Job And Your Projects
One mark of a good project manager is that you care about your projects, your team, and your clients. When you care about the success of your project and your project stakeholders, you manage them differently. You are invested in helping your clients and your team solve problems, you take pride in your work, and you are diligently doing more than the minimum amount of work needed to get by. You are dedicated to creating something you and your team can be proud of.
There are a great number of people out there who don’t care about their work. But when you are proud of what you’re doing and you care about the products and solutions you’re creating, it spills over into your work and your work ethic, positioning you as a great project manager.
2. You are Doing A Great Job When People Come To You To Solve Problems
This is a huge indication that you are good at your job, because your team and project stakeholders wouldn’t come to you if they didn’t trust you! They’ve likely seen you fix problems in the past and know that you’re going to do what you can to help with the issue that they’re facing.
When your project team comes to you with problems, it means that they understand the process and importance of bringing concerns to you as soon as possible. They know that waiting until something is on fire (or until you check on them) is dangerous, and they’ve internalized the processes you’ve been driving home. Good on you!
Finally, when someone comes to you for help, it means that the person coming to you knows that you will listen and value their thoughts. This is an incredible value that you offer! As PM, you have many roles, and trusted confidant is quite an important one. When people come to you with problems, it is because they know you care, a clear sign that you are doing your job well and that you are seen as a supportive, empathetic project manager.
3. You are Doing A Great Job When You Have A Firm Hand On Your Projects
I think that project management is a lot like driving a bus. The bus is the project and your team and your project stakeholders are your passengers. Driving down the road with your project, the scenery is going to change. There may be stops along the way, and different people will get on and off the bus at different stages of the project. But you are always the driver. You direct the bus. You determine who gets on, what they bring with them, and how they behave while on your bus.
From the very beginning of your project, you set expectations with your team and client stakeholders. You direct the project by helping to document scope, need, and threats. You establish a plan for project communication. You keep the project team updated with progress. Deliverables are released on time and to scope, and approvals are coming in according to your project schedule. You are driving the project bus, and you keep a firm hand on your progress, passengers, cargo, and the complications that may arise on the road.
We all know that things will always happen that are out of your control. We’re humans working with other humans after all! Risk becomes reality, scope creep occurs, and a project gets delayed. But when you know how to recover from those bumps on the road and keep the team focused, invested, and aligned; if you have plans to recognize and mitigate those red flags, you retain a firm hand on your project. You communicate honestly and clearly to everyone on the team and you re-set expectations for what is to come.
4. You are Doing A Great Job When Your Team Wants More Of You
When your team and your leadership wants more project managers, more management on projects, or for you to manage more projects, especially if you’re a new PM or a lone PM, this can be a huge indicator that you’re doing good work and that more of it is needed! Your team is seeing the value of what you’re offering and they want that value spread across the projects that don’t have it.
In the same way, when a client comes to you more frequently with concerns or for advice, you can tell that they trust your skills and see you as an expert. When your clients refer you to other organizations or when they bring their next project to you, they have seen the benefits of working with you and your well-managed team, and they know that more projects need to be run the way you run them. This is one of the best compliments we can get!
Yet another good indicator is when a teammate comes to you with a thought or concern about a project that you’re not managing. This shows how much they appreciate your special talents, whether that’s your problem-solving capabilities, your ease with communication, your attitude seeing the positive in a situation, or your ability to just to listen. They know that what they’re bringing you is technically not within the realm of your day-to-day work, but what you offer is so important and so needed, they come to you anyway.
5. You are Doing A Great Job When They Ask You “How Do You Do It?”
Your team sees the magic you are working on your projects. (And, trust me, you are magic.) They see how you remain calm in tense situations, how you can turn a frustrated client into a laughing client, how you can take notes and lead a conversation simultaneously, and how you manage to remain organized even after an entire day of various meetings.
Those words of awe: “how do you do it?” show you that your team has caught a glimpse of the wild world that is project management, and they are dazzled and impressed by your skills. Savor these moments and tuck them away for when you need a reminder that that you are doing an incredibly tough job while remaining composed, professional, and organized. You are both amazing and inspiring your team.
The job we’re doing is a difficult one, but if you feel tired or your confidence wavers, know that you are not alone. What you’re feeling is very normal, and it does not necessarily reflect the quality of your work. Just remember that no matter the situation you’re enduring, it does not define your worth and you are an excellent project manager.
What Do You Think?
Are you nailing at your job? Which of these 5 signs have you noticed? Tell us.+