Successful Project Managers often have soft skills that set them apart from their colleagues and help them to deliver projects successfully where other equally well-qualified project managers would fail. Of course, you can’t be a successful project manager with only the right personality traits – you also need the right training and experience but combining that with well-developed soft skills might just make all the difference.
Here are some ways to improve your project management skills:
- Be assertive without being aggressive.
- Display an optimistic, “can-do” attitude at all times.
- Expect resources to be limited and have a contingency plan.
- Plan for changes to priorities and requirements.
- Deal calmly with changes to the project.
- Promote a good team spirit – motivate, develop and encourage the team members.
- Communicate in person whenever possible.
- Talk to team members individually – give praise where it is due and clearly state your expectations if standards fall below what are required.
- Take an active interest in every aspect of the project.
- Communicate with team members and stakeholders at their level and in their language – avoid technical jargon.
- Keep reports as clear and simple as possible – develop the ability to explain complex issues in a straightforward way.
- Stay clear of business politics where possible – and when it is not possible try to take a rational, diplomatic approach and stay focussed on the original business objective.
- Be receptive to new ideas without losing sight of the business objective. As a project progresses there can be situations where a re-think is required of how to achieve a particular goal or milestone.
- Don’t assume the original plan was the best approach if new information comes along part-way through the project.
- Don’t lose sight of the detail.
- Celebrate each successful project with the team and don’t forget to thank everyone, and involve everyone in the celebration, regardless of how junior or senior they might be.
- Learn something from every project and take that knowledge forward with you to the next.
Like all professional careers, the path to successful project management begins with a sure foundation. This foundation can be built by a combination of formal project management courses and work experience. If you are very fortunate you may also have a mentor. You can work well and effectively as a project manager with this base but to progress to being truly successful and consistently successful you will need to develop your “soft skills” and progress to more advanced levels of understanding with professional qualifications such as PMP Certification.