Top 5 Essential Skills for Great Project Managers

© Performance Management Consultants

Some people are doers. They like to practice their craft and they’re happy to stay doing that for their entire career. Other people are managers. Yes, they like their craft, but they’re happier looking at the big picture, tracking metrics, and making adjustments to optimize overall performance.

If you belong to the latter group more than the former, you likely enjoy inspiring people, planning projects, allocating responsibilities, and executing deliverables. Maybe you don’t know it yet, but you’re meant to be a project manager. Here are the top five skills you need to succeed at project management.

1. Communication

Have you ever reported to someone who doesn’t communicate clearly? It’s not only confusing, it’s also inefficient.

Let’s say your supervisor says they’d love to see a quarterly report of your team’s expenses. The way your supervisor worded this comment makes you think you need to produce a report with graphs and trends and have it on their desk by the close of business. You hurriedly attempt to fulfill this request, putting your other tasks on hold.

As you hand in the report later that afternoon, your supervisor asks, “What’s this?” You’re mystified. Didn’t they ask you for this report? The reality is your supervisor just wanted to have a clearer understanding of your team’s spending; they just communicated it in an unclear way. As a result, you wasted time producing the report and delaying your day’s to-do list.

Effective project management often comes down to one thing: communication. You have to develop the ability to understand others and to facilitate others’ understanding of you. You also have to develop the willingness to take responsibility for, and clear up, any misunderstandings.

2. Leadership

There’s a difference between leadership and management. Manager is a title you’re given. Your supervisor puts you in charge of a particular team and a particular project, and now you’re the manager and it’s up to you to make it happen.

By contrast, no one gives you leadership. It’s a subjective interpretation of how well you manage yourself, others, and the tasks you’re responsible for completing. It’s not a title, or a career achievement. It’s a set of qualities that make you the visionary, the motivator, the expert and, at times, the whip-cracker within your peer group.

You don’t have to be a born leader to be an effective project manager. You do, however, need to be willing to do whatever it takes to help your team and get the job done. That means being accountable, transparent, and open. It also means maintaining a strong, personal sense of integrity and a deep, even unshakeable compassion for your team members. Remember that people choose to follow leaders who demonstrate aspirational qualities.

3. Negotiation

You’ve worked as a member of many teams over the course of your career. You know how quickly tempers can flare, how terribly wrong negotiations can go, and how upset everyone remains after those negotiations became adversarial.

Negotiations rarely come easy to professionals of any kind. Negotiation involves understanding what the other party wants to get out of a particular situation, advocating what your team wants to get out of that same situation, and deciding when to compromise versus when to hold your ground. Fundamentally, successful negotiation requires you to be empathetic, but it also requires you to be steadfast about your own needs. It’s a paradox. For this reason, project managers can benefit greatly from negotiation training.

4. Team Management

If leadership explains why you should be the manager, then team management signifies how you manage.

Every project includes hundreds, if not thousands, of tasks to get it from the planning stage to completion. An effective project manager will delegate those tasks to team members with requisite skills, work experiences, and abilities. An effective project manager will also know how to evaluate those team members’ performances and provide timely, constructive feedback.

5. Time Management

You could be the most effective manager in the world. But, if your projects get completed late, your job security will be at risk.

A project manager’s job, in essence, is to guide a project through its lifecycle and ensure its completion by a predetermined deadline. If you cannot manage your own time, or your team’s time, then it’s likely you won’t make that deadline.

When managing projects, there are many factors that can cause delays. Understanding how to manage the critical path (the series of tasks that can throw off your timeline), is critical. The best project managers spend 80% of their time focused on tasks that make up the critical path.

Project Management Training Benefits Managers and Team Members

Are you interested in learning more about project management? The first step is getting some introductory training. We offer a two-day course, Project Management 101, for professionals who find themselves in a project manager role – whether it’s your official job title or not. You’ll learn the best practice processes, tools and techniques needed to plan and manage your project successfully from start to finish. Public courses are held in Ottawa.

Want to make sure your entire team is on the same page? Consider group training at your location to improve efficiency and communication on all your team’s projects. When everyone understands the fundamentals of project management, it benefits the entire team. Call 613-234-2020 ext. 21 or email sgouedard@pmctraining.com to discuss your training needs today.

If you’re considering getting certified, this workshop can be applied towards your Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification with the Project Management Institute (PMI).

“Great workshop, enjoyed it and learned a lot of practical information.”
– Roxanne Pomerleau

 

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