We all know that to secure the best project management roles, especially if coming new into an organisation, requires some sort of formal PM qualification. Even the introductory PM courses such as APM Introductory Certificate show a level of commitment to developing within your chosen career. But assuming you have at least a basic level of professional project management qualification – what else? What are the skills and qualities project managers need to secure that great role and, more importantly, to succeed managing projects?
Project managers wear many hats, they interact with senior management, team members and end users in all sorts of departments; they produce written communications and reports on a regular basis, they manage the budget and schedule, they manage and try to mitigate risk, manage wide-ranging changes within an organisation. The list of tasks really is endless – but these are the day-to-day tasks that every project manager has to do – I want to consider the qualities and skills project managers need to carry out these tasks well and to do that intuitively (eventually) not merely by following a process to the letter.
It would be easy to rattle off a list of skills such as: good communication, good decision making and problem-solving skills but what does that mean in practise “to be an effective communicator” or “be good at decision making”. These abilities require basic skills and qualities that transcend your project management capabilities and require just as much attention and development as your ability to plan, organise and prioritise tasks or create a risk management register.
So let’s take a closer look at these skills – they are all obvious but worth reminding ourselves about:
The project manager is the main point of contact during a project for stakeholders, senior executives, clients and customers. Being able to communicate effectively with all these groups means understanding what each group needs, and wants, to know about the project and providing that information in an easy to understand way. So it doesn’t mean just churning out a standard report that nobody reads or understands – to produce reports that are meaningful you need to talk to those the report is aimed at and listen to what they are saying. Communication skills are both verbal and written and both are necessary in a project manager.
Obvious really but if you are the sort of person who crumbles under pressure or when others are demanding action and forgets about the process and procedures then you need to work on being more organised and focused.
Good Time Management
Project managers create and monitor schedules of work for their teams and deal with scheduling conflicts and interdependencies but don’t forget that you also have to manage your own time well – making sure the schedule has adequate time factored in for the actual managing of the project.
It’s no good having the most advanced PM qualifications if you don’t have the good basic skills project managers need like inter-personal skills Your project could succeed or failed based on your relationship-building skills. If you have none, you are at risk of failing. PMs have to be able to work well with people in their team, be able to motivate the team, impart both good and bad news diplomatically. It’s the people that make projects succeed so focus on the people involved and build solid relationships with them all.
Project managers will always encounter problems on every project so they have to be able to think under pressure, remain calm and stay focused while they evaluate each problem and, if necessary and project priorities warrant it, to come up with possible solutions.
Can you influence and persuade others to your way of thinking or when a tough decision needs to be taken. Can you persuade people to stay focused on the tasks at hand when they have received bad news such as the project budget being cut. Many projects are beset by problems and that is where strong leadership can make all the difference to keep people on-side even when the project isn’t going to plan.