When a project manager starts a new project, it is important to do a check-point of both the Project Management Methodology and templates that will be used, but also the soft skills that will be required. This article highlights some essential soft skills to ensure that a Project Management Professional can effectively manage, collaborate, and influence as needed to drive a project to successful completion.
According to Joanna Durand, Managing Director of the Citigroup, effective leadership consists of a balance between both “hard skills” and “soft skills” that act as the conduits for success.
Hard Skills versus Soft Skills
Soft skills, also called behavioral skills, is a sociological term relating to the cluster of personality traits and behavioral competencies that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills, also called technical skills, which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities.
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.
Hard skills, on the other hand, are more along the lines of what might appear on your resume – your education, experience and level of expertise.
Essential Soft Skills
Effective communication serves as the foundation by which all other soft skills are derived. Mastery of communication skills will ensure broader success with rounding out your soft skills.
Communication skills include Oral, written and non-verbal communication.
- Oral: presentation, audience awareness, listening, body language
- Written: presentation of data, critical reading, revision and editing, writing
- Non-verbal: personal style, tone, body language and audience awareness
For communication to be effective remember the five “C’s”:
Project success is often determined by the ability to successfully manage stakeholder expectations. These interactions all begin with the basic communication process and an understanding of stakeholder objectives.
Some recommended best practices to communicate effectively with project stakeholders are:
- To know your audience and to customize your message according to their needs
- To have a professional presence
- To summarise the top 3-5 key messages
- To acknowledge personal communication styles
How can a Project Manager’s soft skills be developed?
- Set clear expectations – the team needs to be aligned as to what is being delivered. This will help with accountability and to manage changes to the scope.
- Stage your delivery by creating interim deliverables.
- Think ahead of what can go wrong. Anticipate problems (risks) and work with the client to find mitigation strategies.
- Speak up and escalate when help is needed. This is a sign of confidence.
- Skip the jargon and speak to clients in the same language they use.
- Leverage the strengths of the team. Take time to know the team and their strengths as your project will run more effectively if the right people are working on the right things.
- Don’t steal the limelight when things are going well and give credit to other people’s ideas.
- Be realistic when setting deadlines. Promise what you know you can do and finish on time.
It is important to understand how the basic communication process works and to appreciate the communication styles of different personality types. To grow as a project manager you need to consistently try to close the gap between “hard” and “soft” skills.
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