Understandably, we believe that being certified in project management is a sure-fire way to boost your career chances, knowledge of best practice and overall skillset. However, without the right personal skills, a qualification can only take you so far. We’ve pulled together 4 essential attributes you can use to take your PM skills from good to great.
People tend to believe that you’re either naturally organised or you’re not, and that for those who have the gift, staying organised is a walk in the park. Neither of these are true. You can teach yourself a number of organisational tactics that suit your personal working style, but they require hard work, consistency and perseverance.
Disorganised project managers either struggle or fail. The best project managers know how to tailor helpful organisational tools, such as Gantt charts, to their own company’s practices, and apply a range of techniques to organise both themselves and others. Set yourself reminders, create to-do lists and be sure to update both regularly; organisation takes time.
Project Management could be defined by this word alone. The project manager will liaise between their team, stakeholders, project board, suppliers and more, so will have to relay information accurately and succinctly. Being able to communicate in a number of voices will help. That includes adopting a more formal tone for stakeholders than you’d use with your team.
Another important, but often overlooked, aspect of effective communication is to know when not to give someone information. This obviously means keeping sensitive information to yourself, but also means not copying everyone from the CEO to the janitor into your email chains. Consider whether the information is actually need-to-know for your target audience, and tailor it appropriately.
Logic can cover a number of bases. One project management practice where logic is essential is Risk Management. This requires you to use linear thinking and historical information to draw possible conclusions. Logic will also help with both organisation and communication, as previously discussed.
Logic also takes time. As with Risk Management, your past experiences will inform how you apply logic to future projects. Take time to properly assess how your team’s actions and processes will affect the final outcome, and if anything doesn’t make sense, trust your gut and take a critical look at processes and solutions.
Empathy is one of the most important soft skills a project manager needs for effective leadership. It’s in your interests as a PM to have your team feel as though they can trust you, both with issues and with ideas. Being honest, open and understanding can set an exceptional project manager apart from an average one.
As with any of the skills listed in this article, empathy isn’t an innate, unteachable talent. You can cultivate empathy like any other ability: with practice. Make conscious decisions to listen to your team more carefully, and pay attention to how your actions and their circumstances may affect their mood and performance. Remember, being empathetic doesn’t mean being a push-over – be sure to make your own expectations and boundaries clear too.
Never underestimate the impact your soft skills can have on your project management prowess. Taking time to develop these more intangible skills can give you and your team’s work a serious boost, and combining it with a tangible methodology or framework will set you firmly apart from other PMs. For a great example on how you can do this, click here to read our earlier blog post: Motivating your Project Team with PRINCE2.