What does it take to be a good project manager? Take a look at most job listings, and the requirements are that you can meet deadlines, stick to a project budget, manage project scope and requirements, keep your team on track, and have an expert understanding of the company’s project software of choice. These skills are undeniably important. Still, you can possess all of these, and be a mediocre project manager.
What gives? There are other skills that are just as important. Unfortunately, as project managers work to build their competencies, these are often ignored. The result is a project manager who simply isn’t very well-rounded. To truly become the kind of PM that companies seek, it’s important to develop the following six skills.
The Ability to Foster Collaboration
There’s more to being a project manager than telling people what to do and squeezing the best efforts out of your human resources. You have to be able to get people, each with a variety of skills and experience, to collaborate. This means that you must:
- Build a project team you can trust.
- Create a climate where team members develop faith in one another’s abilities.
- Encourage your team to work through problems amongst themselves with your support.
- Recognize and acknowledge where your skills are lacking so your team members will do the same.
When you do these things, your team will begin to rely on one another more and collaborate their way through project roadblocks. Your role becomes that of a guide or facilitator, not an iron-fisted ruler. Your team develops a stronger sense of ownership over time.
A developer on your team leaves to take a job at another company. Your user suddenly wants something that is entirely outside of the original scope of the project, and you aren’t in a position to say no. A deliverable you were counting on from another business area has been delayed. These things are all the stuff of nightmares for project managers. Your adaptability is what will get you through these moments. Unfortunately, it’s something that’s often forgotten about until you need it.
Jeff Westin is a web developer and project manager at Topessaywriting who recently tackled a major, intranet redevelopment. He has taken away some deep insights about adaptability thanks to this experience. He says, “Adaptability is your ability to keep your wits about you and change your approach in the face of unwanted and unwelcome developments. When these things happen, you must decide how to respond. How will you instruct your team? Which resources will you move from one task to another? How do you respond in a way that maintains sanity among your team members while keeping the client’s interests as a top priority? You have to be able to switch gears, make good decisions quickly, and serve as an example of calm leadership.”
A skilled project manager doesn’t simply know what to do. They know how to order their tasks so that top priorities get finished first. That’s no easy accomplishment when you have multiple projects, and needs that seemingly conflict with one another.
Within each project, every task, every unit of work combines with another and another, until you have a completed deliverable. Further, each deliverable likely depends on other deliverables being finished. You have to be able to assign tasks and direct your team in a way that all of this comes together smoothly.
Get the work of project prioritization wrong, and things come to a screeching halt. You’ll have some team members working furiously while others are waiting, unable to move forward. Your team counts on you to tell them what needs to be done, and when to start.
Conference Call and Meeting Management
Meetings get a bad rap. Some of this is deservedly slow. We’ve all been to meetings that could have been handled with an email or memo. We’ve also attended conference calls where much talking occurred, but nothing got resolved. In reality, the problem isn’t meetings. It’s poor management. Fortunately, when a project manager knows how to run a meeting or conference call, this isn’t an issue.
Good meeting management requires several steps:
- Communicating a clear goal for each meeting.
- Letting all participants know what they are expected to produce and discuss for the meeting.
- Keeping the conversation on track.
- Ensuring that the necessary participants are there, and that extra attendees are left off the list.
- Assigning roles such as scribe and presenter.
- Having all of the necessary equipment and technology in place and working.
It can help to understand the six most common types of meetings there are, and to stick with a singular purpose for each meeting. For example, it’s better to have a status meeting, then a problem-solving meeting rather than holding both in the same session.
Communication in and of itself isn’t an overlooked skill. However, the amount and levels of communication in which a project manager must engage are often understated. Yes, you have to communicate with your team, and the client and other stakeholders.
You will also find yourself communicating with people from different business areas, potential clients, and people and down various levels of the organizational structure. In addition to this, good communication skills require that you be able to deliver tough news and to stand your ground when the very people you are trying to impress (clients) are asking for the impossible. Your ability to have tough conversations, when they need to be held is key to stopping troubles from becoming a full-blown crisis. Therefore, your oral and written presentation skills are a valuable asset. Online courses and free resources like Grabmyessay or Grammarly can help you improve these skills and make your communication really effective.
Some people are naturally well organized. Others have to develop the skills or use a lot of tools to help. However, you get there, this is an imperative skill for any project manager. Almost more importantly, you need to have organizational abilities that can be propagated across your team.
It’s difficult to be a successful project manager if nobody understands organizational systems and methods but you. That’s why most project managers adopt one or more technologies that allow them to create task lists, to track time and expenses, and to ensure that communication happens in an organized manner.
It takes a wide variety of skills to be a successful project manager. Even if you have a wide range of technical competencies, you could still be lacking in some very important abilities. Use the list above as a bit of a gut check to see if you are on track to truly lead even the most difficult projects.