What makes a good construction project manager?

Construction companies are started for the primary purpose of delivering a specific type of work to customers who are in need of that work. If you are a plumber, you start the business to deliver plumbing services. If you are a painter, so on and so forth. You get the idea.

All construction projects start with a lead or opportunity. The opportunity results in a proposal or bid for a scope of work. Win the bid or are awarded the work and you move into project management. The team moves to complete the scope of work and deliver the project.

This is the main thread that runs through successful construction companies. If a company can keep the pipeline full of opportunities, bids and in-progress projects the company will be successful. If any part of this pipeline dries up you will have a problem.

At the core a successful construction company is a series of successful construction projects strung together.

A major component of this success is the ability of the company to successfully manage their projects.

But what are the main characteristics of a successful construction project manager? Read the list below, and don’t forget to watch our FREE Foreman Leadership Course, or browse 185 on-demand courses published by Pros in the industry to help you grow.


  1. Great Listeners

A major focus of construction project managers is to continually learn about their project sites. Project sites change every day. Weather and changes in the labor pool on the project site impact projects. Material availability and vendor performance can impact projects. A successful manager needs to be fully aware of their projects and the activities on the site. They need to be aware of problems as they develop and then work to get rid of these problems.

Project managers that are ineffective listeners do not give themselves a chance to receive feedback from the field. They make decisions based on only part of the information that is available. This leaves them and their teams at a great disadvantage.

  1. Great Planners

Success in construction project management is based in large part on the manager’s ability to develop and cast a solid plan. Construction is very sequential. It requires Part A to go in place before Part B can be installed. Part B cannot go before Part A. This can derail or a project quickly.

Solid planning skills are needed to create success for the team. Without establishing a plan there is no opportunity for the rest of the team to see where they are going. Flying by the seat of your pants is not an option when it comes to running a successful project. Develop a plan and share the plan with the team.

  1. Great Resource Managers

Success in business is based in large part on the ability of a leader to bring together a wide range of resources to accomplish a single goal. You bring together equipment, materials, labor and financing to deliver a project. At any time these resources or other resources can be mismanaged leaving the project in a difficult position.

Project managers are required to assess the needs of their teams and projects on a daily basis. They need to be able to move resources around to address the most critical needs on their projects. If they encounter needs they need to be aware of their resources. If needed they must fill these needs with either in house resources or outsourced options.

  1. Great Trainers and Developers

Resources are scarce. When business is booming there are always shortages. Equipment never breaks down at the right time. Team members never get sick when there is a shortage of work. A great construction project manager needs to be able to develop additional resources to help overcome shortages.

One of the key areas is in the development of personnel. Labor shortages come and go. But there is always a shortage of qualified skilled labor. This shortage is ongoing. Successful project managers look for characteristics for potentially successful team members. They identify and then build those people who show promise. Without developing team members there is no opportunity to practice the next characteristic of successful construction project managers.

  1. Great Delegators

Have you ever seen a single construction project completed by just one person? Neither have we. Successful construction projects are the achievement of a group of skilled people. They are not the result of the effort of one person. Successful construction management projects require project managers to delegate.

Delegation is not dumping. Think of it more like a sports team. Successful delegation is similar to a great infield working together in baseball. The responsibilities for first base are given or delegated to the player covering first base. The shortstop does not attempt to field the ball and tag out the runner. Delegation is critical to successful teams. And successful teams are critical to successful construction project management.

  1. Great Life Coaches

Until construction workers are replaced with robots, the construction industry will be made up of people. And people have problems in their lives. They have family related issues including aging parents, sick kids and mortgage payments. And each time you bring on members to your team you onboard their problems as well. You can ask them to leave their problems at home, but in reality problems follow us. People can be silent but they have a hard time forgetting their personal issues.

Successful construction project managers are in touch with their teams. They know about the personal lives of their team members. They are able to take these issues into account and balance them out against progress on the job. When possible they are able to focus on helping their team member with their personal issue and in turn get them focused back on the project. In short, successful construction project managers treat their team members as humans and not as a means to an end.

  1. Great Self-Awareness

Everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses. This includes construction project managers. And the most successful project managers are those who have great self-awareness. They are not afraid to be real with their team members. Each of their team members knows the leader’s weaknesses. They are just waiting for the leader to become aware of their own weaknesses so that they can be worked around.

Are you aware of your own weaknesses? Maybe you are not a morning person. Chances are that it might not be a good idea to talk to you until you have your first cup of coffee down. Or maybe you don’t finish well at the end of the week. Whatever it is, be ready to be real with yourself and with your team. They will appreciate your openness and chances are that some members of your team will be ready to help cover for you.

In Closing…

Whether you are starting a new construction company or you are looking for ways to improve your current company, focusing on project management is a key to your future success.

Success in construction is based on you and your company being able to deliver your finished projects in a way that exceeds customer expectations. Note that we did not say meeting the customer’s expectations. Just meeting expectations does not get you anywhere.  That is average and no one wants to be average. Exceeding expectations will help you stand out from the crowd.