Project Managers are more and more concentrating on obtaining recognised qualifications in project management such as the APMP, PMP or PRINCE2 accreditations in order to open up more career opportunities and progress in this increasingly professional career choice, but does this trend mean that project managers are neglecting the interpersonal side of their role and failing to develop their “soft” skills?
That is not to say that the formal project management approaches do not recognise the importance of interpersonal or “soft” skills – indeed the latest edition of the Project Management Institute’s PMBOK (5th Edition) does cover it (albeit in an appendix) but do project managers take it seriously and why is it important to them anyway?
Well perhaps the most important aspect of developing good interpersonal skills is that it helps to build trusted, motivated teams. The best project teams rarely develop by accident – you almost always find that one or more members of the team, and especially the project manager, are working, consciously or unconsciously, to create a good working environment; one with a “can-do” attitude and without a blame culture. These motivated teams will be far more resilient to problems during a project and far more likely to deliver a successful end product.
A motivated team that works well together will also be communicating well – not just talking or reporting or turning up for meetings but actually communicating in order to achieve something that will benefit the overall project. So if your team is motivated, get on well with each other and communicate effectively then this will create a confidence in the team that will help them to make good decisions (even tough ones) when necessary, and to be able to convince others of the necessity of those tough decisions. That confidence behind him/her will also help the project manager to negotiate for extra time, money or resources if required because the PM will trust the members of the project team.
And when conflicts or major problems arise it will be much easier to deal with them because the team has a good working relationship. That is not to say that everyone in the team will be bosom buddies but each member should, at least, be able to respect the other team members and value their contribution to the project.
Many project management courses recognise the importance and value of people skills and strive to teach not only the technical strategies required to be a successful project manager but also the “soft” skills.
So, what do you think? Are soft skills a necessary part of the project manager’s arsenal and, if you haven’t got them naturally, can they be learnt? Why not share your thoughts?