The impact of Soft Skills in Project Managers
As a project manager, the responsibility for the success of a project lies in your hands. You are the one to take the project from A to B. To do this well requires several strong skills. While you may already be familiar with some of the hard skill or technical skills required, like contract management and procurement, documenting approved scope, deciding utilization of funds and creating a schedule, there are also less obvious skills needed to become a great project manager.
Let’s discuss some of these not-so-concrete skills, called ‘soft’ skills, and why they are important as a project manager. Soft skills are non-technical abilities, they are primarily people and interaction focused. They include things such as, communication, leadership, dealing with difficult situations and other interpersonal abilities.
As a project manager, you might be wondering which soft skills are most important and how can you work on strengthening them. Here at Workep we have identified the following as key soft skills that most effective project managers have honed:
Good communication isn’t just about talking and writing, it’s about listening. Listening is the first step to great communication. As a project manager clear expectation are critical, and to get there, everyone needs to be on the same page. This means the client, your team and you. Managing a project isn’t unlike running a small city and good communication will help make your whole project go more smoothly.
Take a moment and reflect about some of the problems you have faced with previous projects? Was poorly defined scope, or connecting with a geographical diverse team part of that struggle? If so, then improving communication will undoubtedly help you in the future. And as a side perk, it will help you in life in general.
So how do you get better at communication? Well, as we mentioned, communication starts with listening. Ok, so how do you become a better listener? Improving your listening skills through techniques like active listening or listening with all your senses and focus (not just preparing what you will say next in your head) will help you.
You can learn more about building your listening skills through some of the free resources provided by the non-profit organization International Listening Association: https://www.listen.org/Listening_Resources_New
Time Management and Planning
As a project manager, you already know that time management and planning make the foundation of your project. Everyone is counting on you to plan appropriately and manage not only your time but also estimate their time accurately as well to meet your project deadline.
These are skills that as a project manager you hopefully already consider yourself to be good at, but can always improve. To do that, you will need to continually get better at estimating the time required for tasks that make up a project. Workep can help you with this through our hassle-free time tracker. Start with yourself by estimating your time with a task, tracking it and see how close you come to your estimate. Do the same with your team. You’ll begin to learn that perhaps, you regularly take 1.5x the amount of time you estimated. This is valuable insight because it provides you a rule of thumb for estimating more accurately in the future.
Learn more about our time tracking features here: https://workep.com/timetracker.html
Ok, so you’ve listened to the client, you’ve mapped out the project plan, you feel confident that everyone is on the same page and the project is now underway. Even the best listener, communicator and planner is going to run into unforeseen issues and challenges over the course of a project. How you deal with and manage these situations can make or break the success of your project.
Perhaps, a team member falls ill or leaves unexpectedly. Maybe the client identifies a new need and wants to change the scope of the project. This is where flexibility comes in. The ability to adapt in these tough spots will keep the train on its tracks towards your destination of a successfully delivered project. You will need to use your position to look at the overall project, from that vantage point and with a flexible frame of mind you will be able to find creative solutions to barriers to success.
Just as being flexible physically allows people to obtain a range of motion beyond normal limits, so too will developing a flexible mindset allow you to move past normal limitations. You will be able to recover faster from setbacks and find solutions to problems that others might overlook just by being open-minded.
One way to begin improving your mental flexibility is to identify when you are not being flexible. Do you have a knee-jerk reaction to a suggestion or request from a team member? Rather than responding immediately, try to take a little more time to reflect and see if there is room to be more flexible.
Have you ever started at the beginning of a project and then felt like everyone on the team ran out of steam before delivery? This is common and is a symptom of lack of motivation. Being a project manager requires motivation to achieve the project’s goals, it also requires of you to keep the team motivated as well. How can you help keep your team fired up?
Using your improved communication and listening skills you will be able to get to know your team and ensure they have what they need to be successful. This will keep everyone motivated. Make sure that project progress is visible, how is the work of one team member helping the whole?
The above soft skills are a great starting point to becoming the best project manager you can be. Building strong skills will undoubtedly benefit you in your career and in your life.
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