What skills do great project managers need? Are they the same as any other manager, or are they unique?
In truth, they need many degrees of expertise, some of which are obvious and others less so. The key, of course, is being able to manage a project on time and on budget, by gaining the confidence of all stakeholders and leading a highly motivated team to a successful outcome.
Sounds easy, but it’s not.
Lead and they will follow
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” – John Quincy Adams
Good leadership is needed from start to completion, ensuring all stakeholders are kept briefed and the team fully engaged and motivated.
A leader must know how to utilize the assets of the team and use interpersonal skills to inspire them to complete their work, without constantly having to check in on them. Inspire and motivate them and they will keep the project on track.
Be a good communicator
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker
Poor communications are the foundation for trouble. Project leaders must communicate their visions clearly and project a project’s goals in a way that everyone can grasp. They must also be able to provide regular constructive feedback to the team.
Regular communication lets the team know the project manager is fully in control and alert to any problems.
Project managers stay in touch with all stakeholders, and if problems arise they know how to communicate the changes. The communication tools they range from email to smartphone, or one-on-one meetings, and they are skilled at using them to stay in touch with their team.
Be a critical thinker and problem solver
“Again and again, the impossible decision is solved when we see that the problem is only a tough decision waiting to be made.” – Dr. Robert Schuller
The ability to think on your feet and solve problems are keys to the success of any project leader. No project is without its setbacks or unexpected problems, but the project manager’s facility to think fast and accurately will define the success or failure of the project.
Resources may be curtailed, key aspects of the project delayed for a variety of reasons, but a project manager must find the solution. By doing so, they not only demonstrate their own skills, but build confidence within the team.
Take charge of meetings
“Meetings without an agenda are like a restaurant without a menu.” – Susan B Wilson
Meetings, especially with the team, are a useful way to communicate a project. However, they can quickly disintegrate if not fully controlled. Set out a clear agenda beforehand with a strict time limit – and stick to it.
At the initial phase of the project, a meeting is a good way for the team to get to know one another – they may not have worked together before. Avoid any one voice dominating the meeting and hear the views of as many team members as possible, just be careful to stick to the agenda and the time limit.
Outline the vision for the project and the roles each of the team will play, and then ask for questions so that everyone’s concerns can be addressed.
Team-building is your forte
“Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team.” – Patrick Lecioni
Fail to properly organize and motivate the team, and the project will suffer. A project manager needs to get the team behind him, so start out by organizing a meeting where the goals can be clearly outlined. Then work on building a team spirit.
They are prepared to listen to the concerns of team members and act to plug any gaps they feel will hinder the project. Only by building this unity and encouraging their collaborative skills will project managers have the necessary buy-in from the team, and their willingness to complete their tasks on time.
Stay cool under pressure
“Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise” – Kobe Bryant
No matter what the situation, a project manager always stays calm. Problems will arise on a project, from major to minor, but by staying level-headed they will send a message to everyone that they are in control and unflappable.
In moments of crisis a project manager’s abilities to act quickly and decisively will be severely tested, but even day-to-day pressures also present challenges. They have the skills, the patience, and the resolve to rise to the occasion.
It’s a matter of trust
“He who does not trust enough will not be trusted.” – Lao Tzu
An effective project manager will excel at building trust. Without that trust, the project could suffer later, especially if any obstacles appear that will require everyone’s full engagement.
Trust has to be earned, so project managers establish relationships and builds a rapport with their teams, talk to them regularly, and are responsive to their concerns. They are good listeners and excellent at providing feedback to team members.
They know how to build consensus and motivate their teams. Without trust, the project manager’s job will be a lot more difficult. Which brings us neatly to the next skill.
Delegate, delegate, delegate
“The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels.” – Eli Broad
Delegating work and responsibility says team members can be trusted to assume responsibility for key tasks. It also frees the project manager’s time and energies for the rest of the project. By putting faith in the team, the project manager sends a powerful message of faith that they can deliver.
Remember that failing to delegate is a great way to demotivate the team and make them feel patronized or undervalued. A project manager can’t do everything, so delegate those tasks and earn their respect, loyalty and commitment.
Where project managers lead effectively, everyone is inspired to follow. They are essential to a project’s success but they must have the requisite skills to manage not just the project, but also the team.
What other skills does a great project manager need? Let us know below.