Project Management Skills

Project management requires various skills to excel at. We will discuss some of the crucial ones here. Some of these you may be lacking in, but with a little work you can sharpen your skills.

Communication

The skill of communication is used by nearly everyone on the planet daily. Managing a project to meet tight deadlines you must become a master communicator or you will be destined to fail. Orchestrating the deliverables and understanding what the business wants takes detailed correspondence.

Working with fellow Toastmasters in my local club I have witnessed amazing transformations. People who start stuttering and mumbling slowly become competent communicators over time.  So even if you think you can never become a better communicator there is hope. It will help you manage your projects at work and relationships at home.

Influence

How can we build influence with our team? People need to trust us first before we have influence with them. There is a quote that sums this up well, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is from Theodore Roosevelt. In Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management, author Scott Berkun shares how trust is important for influence. “I have had more than a dozen managers. Many were forgettable and some were awful. But those I admired took time to earn my trust.”

Leadership

Some leaders are given titles and then believe they can tell people what to do. Through your position as a project manager, you are granted some level of leadership. Whether your title is formal or informal as you lead the project you have some influence on the outcome.

As you become successful at your role of managing the team you build the trust of the team members and earn more influence and build your leadership skills. Use this influence sparingly or it will vanish quickly. Nobody likes it when you pull rank and tell people what to do. Persuasion and education work much better at getting the whole team on board.

Negotiation

A few years ago a corporate executive recommended everyone in the meeting read Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. I quickly found a copy and read it over. The authors had four steps to negotiation.

  1. Separate the people from the problem. Don’t drag your personal feelings into the process, focus on finding a solution.
  2. Focus on interests, not positions. Think about your interest and the other sides interests and common ground.
  3. Invent options for mutual gain. Can you bring everyone to a Win/Win alternative? This may take some brainstorming.
  4. Insist on using on using objective criteria. As you discuss your options focus on the facts instead of emotion in the exchanges.

Using these steps can help get things moving in the right direction. Understand everyone’s position and what they are really aiming for. Negotiation is something you will get better at as you do it more.

Conflict management

Conflict is a normal occurrence of a workplace. We all have different ideas of what the right approach is to take. Any project you are on will have its share of conflict. There are many ways to handle conflict. One way conflict is managed is through someone forcing their opinion on the team. This can work to speed things along but it may cause resentment over the long term.

Collaboration is another way to resolve a conflict. This is helpful when consensus is important but can take more time. All parties need to be willing to work together to achieve a mutual goal. Compromising can be an option that makes a temporary decision feasible but can require monitoring over the long term to ensure the agreement is completed. One last option is withdrawing from the conflict. Perhaps the issue is too small to address or the conflict is of short duration.

Decision Making

To complete any project we need to make a lot of decisions. It can be hard to make decisions at times. One way to help make a decision is to have a silent brainstorming, this can avoid the initial judging people do to stifle our creative minds. Another tool is to take the decision choices and prioritize the options to see what the team thinks would be the highest priority options to help narrow the field.

Office Politics

As a project manager, you have to walk a difficult line in regard to office politics. You need to very careful in your assessment of the challenges your team faces. Try to look at both sides of the discussion or conflict. Taking sides right away will show you are not considering each of the options. Remember to use our suggestions from conflict management to try and resolve the issue.

Try to simplify the problem as much as you can. Remove any undue influence someone might try by giving you a laundry list of excuses for their work missing the mark or being incomplete. Remind everyone of the goal of the team and how important it is to resolve the issue and move on united as one team.

Team Building

Getting a team to work together takes some coordination and some effort. Bruce Tuckman pioneered a model of team development back in 1965. He shared how teams go through phases as they develop and come together.

Forming The first phase is the team forming when the team is initially put together and they are just getting started. The team begins to learn the challenges and opportunities that are ahead of them.

Storming As the team begins to come together and face obstacles members share their expertise and opinions. This can be a time of friction and is called the storming phase as heated discussions and disagreements come about.

Norming The team resolves a lot of their disagreements and can begin to focus on their goals and objectives. The team builds ambition toward successfully completing their goals.

Performing The team has now set the behavioral norms and can focus on achievement. They are competent and can operate somewhat autonomously. The management of the team is more participatory at this time than guiding.

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