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10 Attributes That Will Help You Achieve a More Professional Image as a Project Manager

written by: Nan Nan Liu • edited by: Ronda Bowen • updated: 8/14/2011

As the representatives of their projects, project managers receive a lot of exposure. Therefore, they need to present themselves professionally. What are the attributes of professionalism all respectable project managers should possess? What does it mean to dress professionally or be flexible?

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    As a project manager who is in charge of handling all aspects of the project, your professional image is as important as your experience and credentials. You are the initiator of project kickoffs, the go-to person in times of trouble and the correspondent between your team and external parties. Your professional image, including attire, attitude and work ethic, needs to appear polished and refined to exude the type of confidence that not only attracts clients and upper management but also leads the project team. Acquiring certain attributes that help you achieve a professional look, therefore, is important for your job.

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    Dress Professionally

    Professional dress is an important part of conveying your competence as a project manager Whether you work in construction, an office or, a garage, you need to dress professionally.

    You not only interact with the project team but also others on the outside, including upper management and customers. Even if the team members are sloppy dressers, as a project manager, you have to look visually pleasing and respectable because you represent the team. By dressing businesslike, you tell others that you and your team are competent, professional and capable of getting the job done.

    Professional attire usually includes button-up shirts, ties, dress pants and dress shoes for men, blouses, skirts and nylons for women. Also, do not forget to keep facial hair neat if your a man and practice good hygiene.

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    Assertiveness

    Project managers must make sure that strict deadlines are met. When things seem to slip away or slow down, they have to get them back on track and communicate their concerns to team members. Communicating assertively sends a direct, no-nonsense message that iterates the urgency of the tasks at hand.

    For example, telling someone "please finish the report by tomorrow, and email it to me at the end of the day" sounds more demanding than asking the person "if you have time, can you please finish the report tomorrow and email it to me?"

    Being assertive is not being rude. It just adds more importance to the message.

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    Common Sense

    Sometimes team members get very creative and propose far-fetched ideas that arouse interest within the team. However, to finish the project on time and within budget, project managers must use common sense and reject ideas that stretch out of scope. When exciting new features are proposed, project managers need to tell the team that the features just do not appear feasible with the current deadline.

    By exercising common sense, project managers reflect responsible planning and the ability to set priorities straight.

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    Flexibility

    Things on a project often take wrong turns. and project managers need to quickly fix them and resort to a different plan. Sometimes, they already have a plan B and when they do not, they must think of one quickly. By being flexible and quick-witted, project managers show everyone that he thinks outside the box and is capable of offering a creative solution when problems arise.

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    Knowledgeable

    Project managers need to obtain knowledge in two areas: processes and background. They need to master processes so they can apply them to the project. Being familiar with them enables project managers to run the project smoothly and seamlessly, make comfortable transitions from one phase to the next, and provide guidance and direction to the team.

    Having knowledge on the project's background is also important. For example, on a software project, it helps if managers knew a fair amount about the technology, the user base and the business background. Such information help project managers become more intimate with the product and give them credibility when they make important decisions.

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    Motivation

    Again, things on a project often take wrong turns. In times of disappointment and failure, project managers must step into motivator roles. They must have a confident, can-do attitude to encourage the team to learn and move on from their mistakes. They have to lead the team in times of difficulty and inspire them to achieve their goals.

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    Communication Skills

    Project managers spend a lot of their days communicating with others. Not only do they communicate with the project team, they also communicate with people outside of the team. Good communication skills, therefore, are essential to project managers as they must convey messages accurately and clearly to all parties involved. They also need to communicate using various methods including emails, instant messages, conference calls, or in-person conversations. Sometimes, they even have to speak in front of an auditorium full of people.

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    Accountability and Reliability

    When someone says one thing and does another, he or she appears untrustworthy. It is critical for project managers to gain people's trust and they have to do it by being accountable and reliable. If they promise something, then see it done corretly and timely. If something goes wrong, then own up to the mistake and offer a fix as fast as possible. Project managers need to be dependable so others can count on them to get the job done.

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    Organization

    A professional appearance goes beyond attire. Project managers must have a clean work area, orderly paperwork and systematically arranged files in order to project professionalism. Being well-organized shows people that you can find resources easily, operate efficiently and are always on top of things.

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    Ethical

    Good ethics go hand-in-hand with professionalism and project managers must practice good ethics at work. If team members make sexist jokes, stop them. If someone bad-mouthes your co-workers, stand up to them. By showing people that you obtain uncorrupt moral character and good values gain the respect of those you work with. As someone in a management position, people look up to you. It is your duty to ensure a work environment untainted from demoralizing behaviors.

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    At the height of projects and in the middle of juggling different tasks, project managers often forget to pay attention to they way they come across and present themselves. However, reminding yourself of the basic attributes of a professional image can help you appear confident, professional and trustworthy -- the type of manager that everyone respects and enjoys working with.

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