5 Skills for Managing a Large Project

By: Chad Allen

We have a few really large casino jobs we manage that vary in size. The other day, I was on a job site and my daughter texted to ask how my day was going. I sent her a picture of the media rack I was working on - it was giant. She said, “wow - that looks expensive!” To which I wrote back… “30 million”

Sometimes I forget the magnitude of the jobs because when you get deep into the work you’re doing, it becomes more of a passion than a project, and we sometimes forget to take a look around us to see the impact that we are making and the scale that we are making it on. Last month we talked about grit and passion is a big part of that - but how does that relate to this topic? Do you need passion to manage a large project?

Passion is not exactly needed for these large projects, but I’ll explain where it helps. The five critical skills I rely on to manage projects are:

  1. Communication
  2. Empathy
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Resiliency
  5. Adaptability

Notice, this list doesn’t go into which software I recommend, keeping dates on track, the system we use to track time, the meeting schedules, etc - it talks about real-life skills that can be applied almost anywhere - but in managing large projects - they are key.

Communication will allow you to not just relay messages, but it also encompasses LISTENING. Effective communication on a large project means assuming nothing, and over-communicating everything to ensure there are no misunderstandings or gaps.

Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s situation or feelings. On a large project like the one I mentioned earlier, there are over 10+ different teams and trades on the job site at a given time. Empathy is a big deal when you are working with other industries and don’t understand everything about their role but have respect for their expertise.

I have never been on a large project where critical thinking was not a part of my role. Every project, small or large, gets scoped, bid, rescoped, rebid, changed, and launched. But on the job - anything can happen. As complex problems arise being able to think creatively is key.

Resiliency is the number one trait I attribute to avoiding burnout. Long days, unexpected delays, frustrating situations - you name it - are unavoidable. Being resilient keeps you coming back stronger and more… you guessed it, Adaptable.

Those changing conditions and complex problems combined with multiple teams require I level of adaptability. Of course, in order to see you need to be adaptable, you must have a certain level of empathy.

All of these relate and complement each other as well as help to define the traits of a solid project manager.

So where does passion come in? DO WHAT YOU LOVE! When you do, these projects are WAY EASIER to manage. You find yourself leading a vision - not just executing deadlines. Naturally, your ability to inspire and motivate people will shine through and make the project more successful.