July 23, 2017

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Soft Skills for Project Managers

By Linky van der Merwe

Often in Project Management courses there is a big emphasis on the technical skills, also called ‘hard skills’ which are the occupational requirements that project managers need to do their jobs effectively. This would include the creation of tangible deliverables like a project schedule, project budget, status reports etc.

Soft skills for PM'sSoft skills complement hard skills.  Soft skills are the important interpersonal skills you need as a project manager to accomplish work through other people.  Soft skills are essentially people skills – the non-technical, intangible, personality-specific skills that determine your strengths as a leader, listener, negotiator and conflict mediator.

Developing your soft skills is equally important, but is often left to project managers to find suitable courses that would equip them with adequate soft skills like Leadership, Conflict Management and Emotional Intelligence.

Soft skills development

Why would you ask, are soft skills that important? Soft skills refer to behavioural skills – a sociological term relating to the cluster of personality traits and behavioural competencies that characterize relationships with other people.

Since projects are delivered or executed through people, your soft skills are like the glue that will hold the project team together when the going gets tough, for example when projects fall behind, or immovable deadlines are looming, or the normal stress coming from project delivery and dealing with issues.

At the end of the day a project manager wants a balance of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are more technical in nature where as soft skills are intangible and less visible. Soft skills are typically employed without the use of tools and templates. Soft skills can be taught, but they are typically honed by years of experience.

How to improve soft skills

When you set out to improve your soft skills as a project manager, there are 3 key things you need to remember.

  1. Make the commitment to learn and improve
  2. Put yourself in situations where you can practice various soft skills
  3. Evaluate your progress and adjust as needed

At this point you may be wondering if there is a finite list of soft skills to focus on as a project manager. According to my research there are at least 11 soft skills that should be part of your make-up as a professional project manager. They are:

  1. Leadership
  2. Team building
  3. Motivation
  4. Communication including active listening
  5. Influencing
  6. Decision making
  7. Political and cultural awareness
  8. Negotiation
  9. Conflict management
  10. Emotional intelligence
  11. Problem solving

Over the years I’ve published many articles on various soft skills. For more interesting articles with practical advice on developing your soft skills, continue reading about Leadership, Team build, Communication, Decision making and Emotional Intelligence.

If you are new to project management and you are serious about developing yourself as a professional project manager, please look at the Fast-track Growth Program which was especially developed for people like you in mind. It’s an online, self-paced training program for busy professionals which will give you the essential elements for project delivery. It’s the fastest way to grow critical Project Management competencies like technical and interpersonal skills, and becoming a confident project manager!

PMI Survey – Pulse of the Profession 2016

By Linky van der Merwe

PMI Survey - Pulse of the ProfessionRecently PMI has conducted their 8th global project management survey and published the results in the PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2016 Report, called: “The High Cost of Low Performance”.

While expecting to see improvement from previous years, the results showed a decline in projects meeting their goals. The aim of this research is to strengthen conversations about the benefits project management delivers to organisations.

Here are a few highlights of the report, and click here for Pulse of the Profession 2016.

In line with the PMI Talent Triangle that embodies a skill set combination of technical, leadership, and strategic and business management expertise, 40% more projects will meet their goals and original intent if they are managed by PM’s with these skills.

Organisations that align their EPMO with strategy report 27% more projects deliver successfully, and 42% fewer projects with scope creep.

When more than 80 percent of projects have an actively engaged executive sponsor, 65 percent more projects are successful. Yet, on average, only three in five projects have engaged executive sponsors.

Many challenges remain, like the fact that only 6 out of 10 organisations use standardised project management practices and benefits realisation remains low on 17%.

The demand for skilled and experienced project/program managers are on the rise.

Recommendations are made to address the situation including the following:

  1. Invest in ongoing project manager training
  2. Offer defined career path to those engaged in project or programme management
  3. Establish formal processes to develop project management competencies
  4. Transfer knowledge

Many benefits of formal project management are given, but the most important message is to keep spreading discussion around the strategic value of project management by following proven practices like aligning the PMO with organisational strategy, and more as explained in the Report.

In response to the challenges that exist and following recommendations made by the PMI, I have developed a Fast-track Growth Program to assist business professionals who are new to the project manager role, to help them become competent, confident and efficient. The online education teaches critical project management competencies like technical skills you need for the role, soft skills you use daily, the importance of governance, how to overcome common challenges and avoid typical pitfalls. It also addresses career options and helps to define a career path.  Project managers will walk away with a personalised growth and development plan to take action immediately.

Fast-track Growth ProgramThis accelerated Growth Program is available to all new or accidental project managers, as well as PMO Managers who want to improve skills of new project managers at their organisations. Please visit today and help to improve the project management maturity that will lead to more success!

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