Plan, execute, complete, and evaluate a project is how a project manager’s daily routine looks like. But what does it take to perform these tasks effectively? The right qualifications and hard skills play a vital role in project management, because technical knowledge will ensure that the project runs smoothly. But being a project manager requires more than certifications and degrees. On top of everything, it needs experience and soft skills.
The term ‘soft skills’ might give you an impression that it includes trivial and non-essential skills. In fact, soft skills are the key driving factors that contribute significantly to the success rate of a project. If you aspire to be a successful project manager, here’s a list of the 6 most important soft skills that you must possess.
- Organizational Skill
Organizational skills cover a vast range of associated sub-skills, from small things like organizing schedules to something bigger such as managing an entire project. Managing a wide array of tasks can be a challenging aspect for a project manager. Team members are relying on a manager to organize the whole project, and yet at the same time, a project manager also needs to perform other daily tasks.
In organizing projects properly, managers should be able to set priorities straight. They should possess the ability to turn down or delay less important tasks for more prioritized ones. As challenging as it sounds, it is justifiable for them to have some space to focus on one task and complete it first, rather than multitasking everything but not delivering it at all.
- Communication Skill
Communication is key to productive collaboration. Project managers must be able to interact with all kinds of people, regardless of their backgrounds and positions. Each individual might require different communication methods, so a leader is required to master the art of efficient conversation.
Communication binds people so they can walk towards the same goal. Therefore, this should be in the project managers’ best interest to make a strong bond within their team by utilizing solid relationships. Poor communication skills can be a factor that topples their whole project. A report from Project Management Institute’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession indicates that bad communication was the biggest failure factor for 29% of failed projects.
Good communication is two-way. This means that a project manager should be able to listen to what others have to say and also ask the right questions in return. By doing so, project managers will better understand their team members and current situations. In addition, project managers should be able to give feedback. A constructive feedback can be a double-edged blade. At one point, it may destroy a team’s confidence and sever the bond within the team. But, on the other hand, it can also improve a team's competency and boost growth. That being said, it is important for project managers to deliver their feedback genuinely in a way that is acceptable for everyone.
Empathy is the capability to put on others’ shoes and understand their perspectives. Combined with good communication, empathy will enable project managers to create a healthy and productive working environment. Empathy is important because it builds up respect for every team member.
To develop empathy, project managers should actively check up on their team. Leaders need to learn and find out what their team members feel about the project, along with their obstacles and challenges. Constructing personal connection with the people will help project managers raise the team’s morale.
No matter how meticulous the plan is, things can go south easily. In such cases, project managers must have a strong sense of adaptability. Having established good relationships with all team players, project managers should be able to take care of sudden changes and keep the goal achieved in the end. Being disciplined is a must but being adaptable is also something project managers should master as well.
According to the PMI 2018 Pulse of the Profession survey, 37% project failures were caused by a change in the project’s objectives and 39% by a change in the organization’s priorities. Being adaptable will not eliminate possibilities of failure, but it arms project managers with the ability to face the changes. It also helps in acting with caution and minimizing the damage, so that project managers can get back on the right track.
Miscommunication with clients or team members, tight deadlines, and changes in plans may frustrate project managers. Leaders are required to resume working under pressure, so it is important for them not to panic easily. Keeping a level head will help project managers to make correct decisions despite the pressures.
In order to develop this skill, project managers should reflect and learn from their experiences. They must acknowledge what may make them feel down. Some people might have been used to tight deadlines, but for others a closing deadline might be a horror. By understanding their shortcomings, leaders should be more prepared in dealing with stressful matters in the future.
The term ‘good leadership’ may not have a one-size-fits-all definition, since it depends on various factors. If project managers have mastered the five previous points, they should have been demonstrating good leadership for their team. Another way to learn leadership is by looking up to other leaders. If project managers have leaders they admire, they can learn from their methods.
A good project manager is not born overnight. It takes continuous learning along the way to improve these soft skills. Participating in a meeting presentation, having a small talk with their team members each day, and organizing everything each day can bring a leader a step further to master these soft skills. As project managers improve, they should always strive to become better and better as the time goes by.