Most executives know they need a good project manager (or several project managers) to make their company run smoothly, and generally what kind of qualities those PM’s should have. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Extremely Organized
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Able to anticipate problems or trouble spots
  • Adaptable, able to pivot easily
  • Can work with a deadline
  • Natural leader, can demonstrate authority
  • Can properly prioritize, sees the “forest for the trees”

And for many executives, this is a great starting point to find the perfect PM for your company or specific project. It’s also how nearly every applicant will describe themselves on their resumés and in interviews, whether they really embody these qualities or not. Why? They want the job as badly as you want the perfect candidate, and are going to tell you want you want to hear. Separating the pretenders from the real deal is arguably one of the biggest challenges in the hiring process.

So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?

The secret lies in hiring creators – that is, creative minded applicants that don’t need to learn these qualities – they already have them. I don’t care about how many years an applicant has PM’d for a certain company, or if they have an MFA in business, or have any special project management certifications. I’m looking for applicants who are creatives at heart – who have a passion for working with a team to create something wholly unique.

Did you realize that all of the qualities I listed earlier could be applied to those who excel in the fields related to theatre production?

This is why we almost exclusively hire project managers with a background in theatre production, usually stage managers or directors. These PM’s can easily demonstrate all of the key qualities mentioned, and can do so without contributing to a blame culture (utterly toxic to business and productivity) or forcing solutions into preconceived boxes. Theatrical production requires an extremely high level of adaptability and problem solving that translates shockingly well to the “business stage” – though this doesn’t come as a surprise of those to those of us in the theatre industry! When you live and work under a “the show must go on” mentality like we do in theatre, creative problem solving, pivoting on a dime, coordinating your various crews (teams), and understanding the bigger picture are completely essential to putting on a high quality production. Many union productions get only 1-2 weeks of rehearsal before the curtain goes up – deadlines don’t get much tighter than that and most theatres don’t have the budget or time to “just give you another couple days”. Theatre producers thrive under this kind of pressure – and getting a major project off the ground for a more traditional business is no different.

You need a PM who won’t crumble under pressure, who can empathize with their team to push them to their strengths and get the best results, who understands the importance of budget and time constraints, and knows how to prioritize needs based on the ever important MVP (minimum viable product) model.

So if you don’t have time to start posting “HIRING” flyers at your local playhouse to find that ideal project manager candidate… you know where to find us 😉

-Amanda Winston