There is a man who walks Brickell Avenue in Miami dressed like a king. He calls himself a king and believes he is one. There is just no proof to anyone else except his stated title and possibly his “attire” that qualifies him as a king.

One of my favorite movies to watch with my daughters when they were young was The Princess Diaries, released in 2001. Mia is a teenager lacking self-confidence who finds out she is part of a royal family and is offered the princess title and job. The story takes you through the tough work she has to endure, not only in physical transformation but also in perseverance, to do a job representing her grandmother and the people of Genovia, the country she originated from.

So many construction managers do well as Project Engineers, Assistant Project Managers, Estimators, or other supporting roles in the industry. A common practice is for the individual to seek a move to get the next title because they aren’t being offered it freely at their current employer. They strive for that title of Project Manager, Senior Project Manager, Lead, or Director, anything that represents more prestige, more power, and often what they think is more money. Why do they not achieve it right where they are? Most likely because a title at one company is not necessarily equivalent in responsibility to another company, and often the individual lacks the overall qualifications to represent the company in that capacity without doing the hard work to get there. That hard work goes way beyond the administrative process when being promoted to a more senior role.

Project Management and Senior Project Management are two titles in construction with much ambiguity in the employment business.

Every market segment in the industry employs Project Managers, whether a single division, subcontractors, general/CM, or owner’s rep/program management. The consistent part of what makes the person behind the title a keeper or not is not their ability to administer a project. It is their ability to manage all people, places, and things affiliated with the project, ensure they have the resources to do their job, and hold them accountable to their part within the project, all while keeping the stakeholders informed.

What specific items do they make sure are covered during the lifecycle of a project?

  1. They Lead the Team—No matter what stage the Project Manager comes into a project, they know how to evaluate their resources with all parties involved in the project. They know how to evaluate and negotiate project agreements, either formal or informal, to obtain buy-in from all team members and stakeholders. They engage and support all people and build a shared understanding about the project and its ground rules.
  2. They Own the Kickoff and Close-Out—The top Project Managers in the industry know the contract, the drawings at the stage they enter, and they then plan and manage the scope, budget, resources, schedule, products, and deliverables. They implement and integrate project planning activities and plan and manage procurement, governance, and the phased project plan from start through close-out for their projects. It is not easy for them to leave a project even by request of a superior if loose ends are hanging on their project.
  3. They Do the Work – Before, during, and throughout the project, a professional project manager assesses and manages risks. They execute the project to ensure they deliver business value. They manage communications, engage the team and stakeholders, and manage data, project changes, and issues with the project, including with the project team members. Most importantly, they ensure knowledge transfer for the project continually takes place so production does not lag.
  4. They Own the Pace of the Project—They lead the team, supporting team performance. They follow the ground rules set at the onset of the project and take responsibility to address and remove impediments, obstacles, and blockers to the success of the project. They know how to manage conflict and collaborate with stakeholders, and they can apply emotional intelligence to promote team performance. They never blame a team member, stakeholder, or anyone but themselves if a project is not performing, as they took ownership to plan and expedite or agreed to take over the project plan.
  5. They Are Fiduciaries for Their Projects—Professional Project Managers manage all compliance for their projects, and they adhere to the conformity of the company they employ with. They evaluate and deliver project benefits and value to all involved. They evaluate and address environmental or organizational changes and proactively correct them to keep the project on budget and free of litigation.

What makes that PM ready to be a Senior Project Manager? I assure you it is not time served, age, or any other reason than you own all of the above for your own projects, and the teams under you have demonstrated your ability to lead, train, develop, and effectively communicate what we refer to as “Boots to Boardroom.” You can professionally walk into a site or go to an executive meeting and lead and update others while understanding their role and the importance of the team.

Kings, queens, princes, and princesses in real life have rules, responsibilities, behaviors, and more that they are groomed for and graded on. When they do not own their responsibilities and behaviors and do so with a proud representation of their monarch and monarchy, they are headlined. It is the same as those in Construction Management, when those who don’t represent their company and the clients they serve they are noted. They might keep the title but won’t be the most admired and respected on the throne.

Do you have what it takes to become royalty in the workplace? Mia ran away in The Princess Diaries until she saw the benefit of persevering to achieve beyond herself. Do you have what it takes to do the same and earn your title?

To Being the Queen or King of Construction Management,
Suzanne Breistol


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