Project management requires efforts and it is certainly not an easy job. It involves several steps; from the initiation, planning, executing, and controlling to the closing of a project. The most challenging part is that the project is delegated to a team with specific goals to achieve over a defined timeline for a determined budget. A successful and effective project manager is one who can keep projects and the team on track.This normally takes more than just technical know-how.
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. An innovative training and development program is one of the best ways to help project managers improve their skills and knowledge. So what skills do great project managers need? Are they the same as any other manager or are they unique? The truth is they need various degrees of expertise, some of which are obvious and others less so. Here are 7 essential skills needed by project managers:
- Good leadership
As a project manager you’re responsible not only to lead the project to a successful completion, but you’re also responsible for leading a team to achieve that goal. To manage everything efficiently, this requires you to motivate and mediate when necessary. Some believe you’re born with leadership skills while others think everyone has the potential to learn how to apply proven leadership skills and techniques.
Indeed, through an effective training, it is possible to learn the skills to become a good leader. For example: through modern training solutions such as simulations or scenario-based training videos, employees experience real work situations which prepares them to face any challenge in their daily jobs. In short, 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. It is important to inspire and motivate the team members as this will help to keep the project on track.
- Effective Communication
Essential qualities of great project managers are great communicaton skillscombined with a high emotional intelligence. They are clear and concise in the way they communicate. Such prompt and honest communication immediately gives project managers credibility, and increases the likelihood of a successful project.
All the stakeholders are more likely to be engaged if the project manager communicates well. For instance: at the start of any project, the project manager needs to ask the right questions and set a clear goal for the outcome. Project managers also need to communicate equally well with colleagues, vendors, and customers, and understand how to tailor their style to each stakeholder.
- Risk Management
It may happen that things do not go as expected on projects; experienced project managers are more likely to know this and plan for it. Knowing how to manage the unexpected in a peaceful way is another important skill for a project manager. It is important to analyze all the risks involved in the project and how it could lead to a downfall. This is the best way to get prepared for what might hit your project in the future. After identifying the possible risks, you also have to plan what to do about them. This usually involves using risk management strategies. Therefore, these action plans need to be incorporated into your main plan and tracked as well.
- Cost Control
Cost management is one of the most critical elements to be considered by project managers. They need to show that they can deliver the project within the cost constraints and by managing the project finances intelligently. This also includes forecasting, especially if the project will last long enough to push some of the budget into the next financial year. As a minimum, you’ll have to work out how to spend what you’ve been allocated and whether it is enough to deliver what the project sponsor is expecting.There are also likely to be company-specific processes to follow to actually procure services, receive goods and spend money paying invoices.
- Negotiation Skills
A good project manager must be an excellent negotiator.Negotiating the use of resources, budgets, schedules and so on are important attributes. Knowing how to negotiate well so that all parties are satisfied is a key skill for the successful project manager. It is very common for project managers to find themselves negotiating with just about everyone, every day.
Whether they are negotiating for resource from their fellow project managers, negotiating for support from senior management, negotiating with 3rd party suppliers or with clients; there are always different interests that they need to try and align. The key to successfully negotiating is to arrive to a win-win situation. To improve negotiation skills, it is important to invest time to understand relationships and stakeholders’ interests, so that project managers can clearly identify what is needed to move their projects forward.
- Tech Savvy
As technology is evolving rapidly, a successful project manager must stay abreast of relevant technology in his or her industry. The project manager should also serve as an effective conduit between programmers/developers and non-tech team members, and is able to communicate effectively between these departments to work rapidly toward bringing the various components of a project to completion. Strong project managers must be interested in continuously learning, staying up to date with the latest software and other technologies that will keep their teams on the cutting edge.
- Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is an ability that everyone should develop since most of us are not thinking, but only reacting or following a series of responses that we’ve either been told or learned. Critical thinking is simply being as objective as you can in analyzing and evaluating an issue or situation, so that you can form an unbiased judgement. Therefore, this is a critical skill for project managers to manage any challenging situation. Critical thinking pulls you out of acting on emotions or from received knowledge, and this is exactly what a project manager must do.
Let’s face it: project managers will encounter problems every day while working on a project, and their decisions should be unbiased. In fact, the only thing guiding their decision should be what’s best for the project. They have to weigh up the pros and cons of solutions to problems before choosing the right way forward. Critical thinking skills can be developed through practice and by equipping yourself with tools and approaches to help you structure arguments logically and see things from all angles before making afinal decision.
Everyone will be inspired to follow a project manager who leads effectively. Project managers are the backbones for a project’s success but they must have the requisite skills to manage not just the project, but also the team. A good training and development program can be a good way to enhance those skills to ensure productivity and success.