What skills do you need to be a great project manager? How do you develop those skills using training and coaching? Project management is a challenging role. You sit between upper management giving you demanding targets, and the production teams telling you how difficult it is to achieve those targets. It's rather like being the filling of a sandwich of flak! To cope with this stress, requires a range of skill sets:
- Excellent communication skills. The project management role is at the fulcrum point of many lines of communication. These lines go to a range of stakeholders from the business, the user community, a range of suppliers and other parties with vested interests. The project manager has to act as a project telephone exchange ensuring that all these parties communicate with each other in an effective and cohesive way.
- Great people management skills. Projects are about getting people to work together. As such the project manager must be able to build effective teams, motivate people to work productively, delegate clearly and deal with the likely conflicts that will occur.
- Emotional intelligence. Projects bring about large-scale change that people react to in many different emotional ways. The project manager needs to be aware of these emotions both in themselves and others and deal with them rationally. The project manager should be a calm rock in the storm of the project environment.
- Political savvy. Projects can be a political minefield, where there are winners and losers. An ability to identify these two groups and understand what influences them can help the project manager move the project forward.
- Time management. With a whole array of things to do, most of them urgent, the project manager needs to be a great juggler of tasks and use their own time as effectively as possible.
- Best practice knowledge. A thorough understanding of best project practice such as PRINCE2, agile or the PMI's Project Management Body of Knowledge helps the project manager to see what should be done at any point in a project's life. It helps to health check a project by comparing it against the best practice and see what is missing.
- Project management software tools. A lot of information flies around a project environment: budget updates, task updates, lessons learned and specialist knowledge. It's critical to track, store and communicate this information. The best way to do this is to use the right tool. A project manager needs to understand how to use tracking tools such as Microsoft Project, knowledge sharing tools such as Sharepoint and collaboration tools such as Slack to enhance project communication.
We could carry on with this list, financial skills are needed to track a project's budget and business case, maybe specialist skills are needed, such as IT, construction or engineering, to understand the project environment, etc. But even the range of skills listed above conveys how difficult the role is to do well and also how challenging it can be to develop your project management skills.
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