Great Project Managers are the official Mortar of Engineering

Being a great project manager means you need to be the mortar that holds your team together. You are vital to your company's success.

The strength of a masonry wall depends on various factors, including the type of masonry material used (e.g., brick, concrete block, stone), the quality of the construction, and design considerations. Generally, a well-constructed masonry wall can resist the highest load and stress. Mortar is the material that holds the individual masonry units together. In an engineering firm, Project Managers are the mortar of all engineering projects.

Just as mortar holds a wall together, the project manager (PM) plays a critical role in holding together their organizations through effective project leadership. We all want to have great leadership at all levels, but a firm that has only great leadership at the top but brittle leadership at the project management level will leave the company vulnerable to collapse. Project managers need to understand how important their role is to the survival and long-term success of their company. At the same time, company leadership needs to recognize and embrace this as well!

Project Managers & Mortar

The mortar’s strength can affect the performance of the masonry wall in several ways. The same is true in Project management. Let’s analyze why this is true.

Bonding Strength

Mortar provides adhesion between masonry units and assists with transferring loads from one unit to another. Strong mortar enhances the overall structural integrity of the wall. A PM who provides effective leadership and communication to both their team and their clients enhances the overall integrity of the project.

Load Distribution

Mortar helps distribute loads evenly across the masonry units. If the mortar is improperly applied, it leads to uneven load distribution and potential instability. A PM who delegates responsibilities across the team ensures the workload and associated stress is carried evenly by everyone assigned to the project. Failing to evenly distribute work can result in uneven workloads and instability among the team.


Mortar contributes to the long-term durability of the wall. Mortar that is weak can deteriorate more quickly due to weathering, moisture, and other environmental factors. PMs who are not provided with appropriate training and support can deteriorate over time, leading to ineffective leadership. Sometimes this is exposed by team morale and the failure to meet deadlines consistently.

3 Tips for Being a Great Project Manager

Maintain Your Credibility

PMs have the incredible task of managing the day-to-day progress of their projects from inception through completion. Depending on the type of project and scope of work, this might be days to weeks or even years in time. It is imperative that the PM be the pointy tip of the spear when it comes to getting things done. This does not mean they need to do everything, but it does mean they need to be the responsible authority and accountable for the project’s performance.

Many PMs promote from within at some point in their careers, giving them authority over those who may have been a peer just days ago. This is never a simple transition but requires the recognition of two things. First and foremost, remember where you came from. Even if you didn’t take on a PM role recently, this is your friendly reminder to not forget that at one point you were reporting to a project manager. Be humble to their needs but know that at the end of the day, you are accountable for your team.

This approach to team leadership ties directly to the second thing, look out for your team. Looking out for your people truly means looking out for them. I didn’t say cover things up for them either so don’t misconstrue how you should look out for them. It means looking out for their welfare, their professional development, and so much more. Hold your team to a standard and lead it with your example.

“A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skills of others.”

Norman Shidle

Be an involved Project Manager

As project managers in an engineering firm, it is very easy to get lost in emails and meetings. When that happens, you need to realize that you need to come out of your office or cubical! We already talked about leading by example but being involved is a lot more than just being an example. You need to know what your team is doing and where they are at in their work.

This does NOT mean to micromanage your team. Micromanagement is the fast track to losing your leadership effectiveness. This means providing them with information as you receive it and working with them to draw out their best. It may be through team check-in meetings, 1:1 staff meetings (a great tool that I will cover soon), or simply asking for periodic reports of where your staff is in their process. These interactions help with collaboration and promote team contributions while keeping you informed of the project’s progress.

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”

Amy Poehler

Provide Effective Training

We are all busy! A successful firm may be even overly busy. But that doesn’t mean you can afford to abandon training your staff. Project managers are the point of contact with the client, and the leader of the team, and they need to take an active role in training staff too. You didn’t get to where you are because you didn’t know what you were doing. You obviously need to know how to do a lot of the things your staff is doing so you can effectively communicate with your clients. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge either.

I have seen a certain mentality among certain staff time and time again, “if I show them how to do it, they will take my job.” We need to stop seeing it this way. Personally, I believe in the fact that if I can teach someone else to do my job, I can move into another position sooner. This isn’t fear but I look at this as opportunity. If you are someone who believes this, let me say this. The worst thing that comes out of breaking this mentality – you will stop having to fix everyone else’s work!

Company leadership needs to consider this need for training too. Your staff cannot grow if they don’t have the opportunity to learn, they will not improve, and your profits will not be able to increase. Investing time and effort into your team provides you with the ability to charge your clients more because of their improved efficiency. (And while you should reward them with a salary increase too, the billing values on an hourly basis will increase your profits more than the cost of the training.)

“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”

Henry Ford


Project management is not an easy job. It takes effort, strategy, and enthusiasm. Keep these things in mind and know that being a great project manager requires you to be the mortar that holds everything together.

If this resonates with you, let’s continue the conversation! Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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