Successfully managing a project can be a tough assignment.
You have to make sure that different members of your team are working as a cohesive unit whilst still completing separate objectives. You must accomplish all this while delivering on your deadlines and staying within your allotted budget.
Such projects demand a lot from a leader, but it is possible to rise to the challenge and get the best from your team with the right project management skills. While technical expertise plays a part in this, more nuanced skills can be just as vital.
As project managers, we deal with people as much as software solutions and business tools. That is why the soft skills of project management, like listening and empathizing, are just as valuable as technical proficiency. Without the project management skills resume to fire up our teams, we’ll find that even our best-laid plans might amount to nothing.
To this end, we’ve come up with five project management skills that can help lay the foundation for success, develop your businessman profile, and help you get the very best work from your team.
Let’s begin with one of the most basic project management skills that are nonetheless essential to success. Some believe that leadership is an innate quality that is difficult to teach.
However, leadership is really just like any other skill – it can be practiced, studied, honed, and improved upon. Being an effective leader means setting the tone for the project and being an example for your team.
People exercise leadership in different ways, and there is no one catch-all style of leadership for effective project management skills. Some people like to lead from the front and provide a concrete framework within which their team can complete a project. Others prefer a more subtle style of leadership that gives members more freedom to contribute to strategy.
Both approaches can be successful, but what a good leader really has to do is understand their team. You need to know when to offer support to help someone through a challenge and when to give someone the encouragement they need to take a risk.
Understand how to engage your team members and motivate them to excel, and this will be reflected in the quality of their work.
How important are communication skills in project management? Quite simply, priceless. Being a project manager requires us to constantly interact with different people, from our own team to external departments, suppliers, clients, and executives. Without communication, your team will struggle to make even progress, and your workflow is likely to be inefficient.
A big part of communicating effectively is also about tailoring the tone of your communication to both the audience in front of you and the method you are using to communicate (email, IM, face to face, etc.). Being a good communicator is also as much about being able to listen as your ability to talk.
Asking questions helps improve your understanding of a situation and shows that you value what others have to say while being more informed about your team’s activities.
Feedback is another critical element of effective communication. It helps you nudge your team’s performance in the direction you desire and can help galvanize their confidence. To provide effective feedback, include concrete actions that they can take to improve their performance instead of vague advice that won’t help them correct their work.
We can provide inspirational leadership with nuanced communication, but it is effective planning that delivers a project to completion, making it one of the top project management skills.
Happily, planning is one of the project management hard skills that we can take practical steps to develop. Planning covers everything from budgeting and time management to correctly assigning resources and choosing who fills particular roles.
Start by connecting your team to a shared calendar so that you are all working from the same schedule where everyone has a good understanding of each other’s availability. Follow this up by finding out if any members of your team want to take leave during the project’s time frame so that you can adapt to their absence in advance.
Remember that you also have to manage your own time as well as that of your team. If you find that your attention is being stretched thin across lots of different things, take action. Don’t be afraid to tell your team that you are taking some time to concentrate on your work so that you can take care of some important milestones.
Have you spent hours beforehand coming up with the perfect strategy to complete your project on time? Full marks for effort, but, unfortunately, you’ll find that reality is rarely so accommodating. A project can go off-course for a variety of reasons beyond your control.
Maybe a stakeholder comes to you with new demand, or a supplier has to drop out. Perhaps a critical member of your staff has to suddenly take time off for health reasons, or you find that your budget gets restructured.
Whatever the cause, it is always best to plan for the worst. Being adaptable is one of the most important projects management skills because it can allow you to retain the work you’ve already done without having to start over from square one.
Being adaptable doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to work miracles, as some obstacles can be too big to overcome. But it does mean that you’ll be able to survive when the odds aren’t in your favor.
You can become more adaptable by incorporating agile working practices into your product management style. Convene daily updates with your team members so that problems can be brought to your attention quickly before they snowball out of control. Put feedback systems in place so that staff can provide you with a regular health check on how their work is going.
Also, don’t forget to regularly reappraise your budget and deadline projections so that you can take action if work isn’t coming along as you expected in a particular area.
One of the essential project management skills is being able to keep your head when everyone around you is losing theirs. Every project will have its bad days when some unforeseen obstacle comes looming out of nowhere to throw your plans into disarray.
At these times, it is important that, as a leader, you keep your cool under pressure to steer your team to calmer waters. Some project managers even find a way to thrive amidst the mayhem.
Composure is especially crucial if you are in a position to address clients and stakeholders since you may need to convince them the situation is under control and the challenges can be overcome. If you are sweating through your shirt and tugging at your collar, you might have a hard time convincing them that there is nothing to worry about.
To help keep your cool, start thinking about the situations you know can trigger your stress, like deadlines or stakeholder meetings. Once you can identify your weaknesses, you can plan around these situations to help come up with a plan B for your worst-case scenarios.
Then take a detailed look at the times you’ve previously panicked. Reflect on the causes of the situation, the ways you reacted, and why.
Consider how your response could have been better and how you would tackle the situation in the future. Facing your fears by conducting a project management skills assessment rationally and dispassionately can help you respond to a similar situation with more composure the next time around.
Conclusion: Developing Project Management Skills Breeds Success
If you can cultivate these project management skills for success, you’ll be in a great position to lead your team to victory. Remember that you need to empathize with your team members to make the workplace a rewarding environment where they can do their best work.
A project manager needs to be able to understand people as much as lead them, and you might be surprised what people are capable of when they feel engaged with their work.
Becoming a fantastic project manager takes time, and no one is expecting you to never make a mistake. However, when you actively work on developing project management skills and pay attention to your team’s progress, you’ll be ready to meet a challenge when things don’t go your way. Do you feel there are any essential project management skills that we’ve missed? Let us know.
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Emily Moore is an English and programming teacher with a passion for space and blogging. She believes current entrepreneurs and research should focus on conserving our planet’s resources. With satellites in orbit, it is easier to obtain relevant data on any changes in the environment. This, in turn, should help people quickly solve any problems.