The Best and Worst Parts of Being a Project Manager

8 min read

PMI estimates that there are 16.5 million project managers in the world. 16.5 million daredevils, because project management is not the easiest game to play in the job market. There are so many factors that can influence your work and so many hats a project manager should wear.

At the same time, the reasons why you may want to enter this domain outweigh the challenges you face in the end. Being a project manager involves constant learning, interaction with all sorts of people, and increased responsibility. Many truly inspiring things. 

In this article, we’ll reveal why one enjoys being a project manager and open the Pandora’s box of why you might hate the project management profession.

 

What does it take to be a project manager? 

Before jumping to the pros and cons of being a project manager right away, you might want to check our earlier piece on what a project manager does (challenges included). If you look at some job descriptions, you’ll certainly spot that the main responsibility of a project manager is to manage projects, people, and expectations. The need for project experts has been growing ever since and is expected to rise in the coming years.

 

Like any role, project management cuts both ways. There are aspects you may like or dislike.

 

The best parts of being a project manager

There are plenty of benefits to being a project manager. The most satisfying part for many is cooperation and knowledge-sharing with people from all walks of life. Another upside is constant involvement in creating something new, as there are rarely two similar projects. Many project managers we’ve interviewed also see their touch in empowering people to do their jobs better throughout the project lifecycle. Let’s take a look at each benefit separately.

Interacting with people from diverse backgrounds

It makes no difference what team you’re going to manage – a global remote team dispersed around the world, or the other way around, you’ll still work tightly with someone sharing the same goals, but contributing different experiences. Most likely, you'll collaborate with people who have miscellaneous backgrounds and a common enthusiasm to get the job done. They’ll bring different perspectives and a range of vision to the project you run and unlock all hidden values. If working with others is what brings you delight then project management is probably for you.

According to Abigail M. Posey, an Organizational Change Leader, the absolute best part is being able to see into the fantastic work that everyone does. “Project teams are made up of a diverse group of individuals in order to cover all skill sets,” says Abigail. “That brings a lot of differences and can be challenging, but it’s very rewarding to see their individual and collective outputs.”

Seeing a plan you developed come together

To see the team plan work out is a luxury for project managers. The sense of realization that everything goes as initially planned gives a good bounce and an increase in motivation. Remember that feeling when all the puzzles come together? 

“The best part of the job is the self-satisfaction at the end of the project when looking back at the final product of your hard work and giving yourself and the team a pat on the back for a job well done,” says Shaun Prashant Tharmarajan, Facilities Project Manager at BAE Systems in Australia. 

Creating something from nothing

Building a house. Developing a program. Constructing a ship. Or simply creating a website. Project managers are always part of growing a new product. There’s no standard day. In fact, some projects even become million-dollar startups. What actually makes project management romantic is constantly traversing new grounds. 

Empowering teams

Many project managers see the best part of their job in making teams stronger and more autonomous. Michael Alcarde, Program Manager at Teradyne believes that the best part is when he sees the whole team is aligned and marching towards a common goal. “Every member is engaged, proactive, and going the extra mile,” explains Michael. 

In turn, according to Jim Landon, Project Manager at Cayzen Technologies, there’s nothing better than observing your team become functional and deliver per project management plan from project inception through execution.

Supporting and enabling the team to exceed their potential is one of the obvious benefits of being a project manager.

You have the opportunity to empower your team to aim high and the ability to remove hurdles along the way for them to accomplish interim milestones, celebrate small victories as a team, boost their confidence when they need that nudge, recognize their contributions, and help make a difference. – Anupama Kinatukara, CEO & President at ZNDKIN Solns

Building relationships

Expanding on her role, Lori Nevin, Senior Program Manager at Triumph Aerospace shared with us that what makes her particularly happy is seeing the relationships develop and being the glue that holds them together. As a project manager, one should regularly interact with all levels in the company – C-level management, teams, stakeholders. External communication is also important for building solid business relationships. The positive part about the job is that eventually, you’ll have a huge list of connections and strong bonds with them. 

Read more: How to align expectations with your client by providing real-time insights on project scope and time

Delivering business value

Hiring a project manager is paramount to the growth of any business. Executing projects, one’s final goal is to deliver business value. In project management, it embraces all the factors that influence the well-being and health of a business. Project managers are people in charge to create a sensible balance between small details and the big picture. In other words, they create a bridge between corporate functions. That’s why a project manager’s role is crucial to eliminate the obstacles and boost value. 

Delegating work

When asked what’s the favorite aspect of being a project manager, many answer that project management depends more on delegation than the actual work done. There’s nothing bad about being a hands-on manager, and there are experts who like it. It’s just that this profession is in need to manage work, people, and projects. 

 

The worst parts of being a project manager

Given that there is a good deal of benefits, is being a project manager hard? It’s not without its downfalls, of course. Being a project manager is pretty much like riding a bike. There are lots of flat areas, but you’ll need to overcome many bumps on the road and even mountains. 

The top stressors of being a project manager also include dealing with uncertainty, managing stakeholders, not always being in control, to name a few. Tesh Desai, Global Head of Programs and Transformation at Nomis Solutions, says that the worst part is occasionally feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders. Overall, experts mostly complain about the following parts of their job: 

Being fully accountable without the proper level of authority

Lack of authority, while still being responsible, is the most nagging project management pain. “Some bosses hold PMs accountable for cost and schedule without delegating resource authority or approving project baselines,” reflects one project manager. “Not having authority in a hierarchical environment to reward or provide an assessment of team members,” says another. “Knowing what you need to do for your team to be successful and rewarded for its efforts but not having the authority to make it happen,” adds one more. 

Managing stakeholders

Stakeholders are people who hold interest and stake in your project's outcome. Usually, they are project sponsors, executives, customers, users, or members of the project team. It’s one of project managers’ main responsibilities (and stress factors) to communicate with them and keep them on the same page. Managing stakeholder expectations is a never-ending process. 

The usual scenario, according to Kiron Bondale, trainer and trusted advisor in project management, is having decision-makers make the wrong decision with their eyes open, even when you and the team have done your utmost to convince them of the wisdom of choosing a different path.

According to Taoufik Samaka, Doctorate Researcher at Toulouse Business School, the most difficult thing is to make stakeholders collaborate. 

A project manager's primary role is to connect the dots and enable collaboration between project stakeholders. That is the most challenging mission, especially if stakeholders are not sharing the same interest in the project, have conflictual relationships, or have different agendas or even hidden agendas. The good thing is that the project manager if given the right mandate to make decisions and is empowered enough, and gets the necessary funds, can then embark on a journey where he will bring his skills, experience, and knowledge to drive his project team in the right direction (if he is a competent and surrounds himself by competent people) and deliver the project within the set timelines, budget, and quality.Taoufik Samaka, Toulouse Business School

In turn, Sergio Luis Conte, Senior Project Manager at PepsiCo sees the problem in not being able to run faster than project stakeholders when things go wrong.

Being a professional cat herder

According to PMI, in project management, herding cats is an issue most project managers are familiar with, as it is often experienced when people are running in different directions with different drivers or intentions, becoming uncontrollable. A project manager’s role is to make them look in one direction and follow the same goal. One should develop a certain level of authority and influence to make it happen. 

Dealing with uncertainty

Among the challenges project managers face, uncertainty holds a notable position. It’s difficult to predict the end of the project and many still feel anxious about the project accomplishment. Unfortunately, under the pressure of changing requirements, project leaders are not always able to control the outcome. Executing a project, one should learn how to handle uncertainty gracefully and benefit from it. 

Estimation guesswork

Before starting to work on a project, you’ll have to estimate it – tell the customer how long and how much it will take your team to complete the project. This is where all the guesswork begins that eventually results in a poorly defined scope and entails other chronic management pains, like missed deadlines and budget overruns. To learn more about project estimation techniques, continue reading here.

 

Other upsides and downsides of project management

Project management communities regularly express their opinion on the best and worst parts of being project managers. Here are some thoughts from people who practice the art of project management every day: 

I've said that for years. Nothing that a project manager actually does remains in production after the project ends. We just get our teams what they need to do the real work. We do expend energy, though. Lots of it! If you carry a rock up the stairs and bring it back down to the original spot, you have done no work, but you have expended the energy. Terry Sward, Infrastructure Project Manager

I would say the best part is the feeling of satisfaction once the project is done. It's an amazing feeling to look back on what your team was able to accomplish given the usually limited resources at hand. Alexander Stodola, Healthcare Project Manager

The worst part of the job is probably the pressure of deadlines, lack of resources, and getting bogged down trying to solve day-to-day issues that can really take a toll on yourself. But at the end of the day, it is part and parcel of the job. Embrace the challenge! Shaun Prashant Tharmarajan

To wrap up, project management profession has its pros and cons. While there are many benefits, there are still lots of areas to upskill in, especially when it comes to project health. Project management is overcoming digital transformation as any other domain, and technology already optimizes many project management processes and has its say in schedule automation, resource allocation, estimation, and stakeholder management. Sign up for the demo below and we’ll show you how to set up a process that works for you as a project manager to deliver better business results.

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