As a project manager, you have to improve your soft skills in order to manage successful
project teams. According to the PMBOK® soft skills or interpersonal skills are behavioral competencies that include proficiencies such as communication skills, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, negotiation influence, team building, and group facilitation.
One of the more important and most difficult aspects of project management for me is managing people; you will work with top performance, self-managed, proactive, and very knowledgeable teams but this will not always be the case. As a PM you will have to deal with cross-functional teams, and most of the time you will have to work with team members that don’t report directly, this creates a big challenge for the project manager and this is why it is very important to develop our soft skills.
Now, if you ask me which are the most important soft skills for a PM? I will tell you right away “All of Them”, but since it will be impossible to explain all in this article, below are the 5 most important according to my experience.
1. Leadership - Leadership is an essential characteristic of a project manager, PMBOK® defines it as the ability to get things done through others. It is the ability to inspire other people to achieve their goals by aligning theirs, the project goals and the company’s goals by ensuring everyone understands the benefits, and the expectations of the project or program. The PM has to lead the team not only manage the team.
2. Communication – One of the most important tasks of a PM is to create effective communication, you have to know what, who, how, and when to communicate. A PM has to ensure the message has been understood, sometimes just sending an email will not be enough, every stakeholder has different needs of information, and understanding this will definitely be a success factor for your project.
3. Decision Making – Decision making refers to how the PM helps resolve issues, how to choose between options A, B, or C to solve a problem. Several techniques can be used like decision trees, brainstorming, cost/benefit analysis, paired comparison analysis, etc., here are some recommendations: obtain all the information needed, keep the decision-making committee small, the more people you include the harder it is to achieve a decision, do not involve emotional attachments, have the big picture in mind and what is best for the company, finally, document and communicate the decision to all stakeholders.
4. Ethics and Integrity – This might sound like a no brainer but this is one of the most important aspects of a PM, one has to be clear and honest about our intentions, be transparent, accountable, remember that a PM is a leader and integrity is something you will expect in a leader, PMs not only represent the project they are working on but also the company he or she is working for.
5. Conflict Resolution – Do not get confused with decision making, conflict resolution is about solving differences between two or more parties, the bigger and more complex the project is the more differences will arise. A project manager must be able to address problems directly and immediately, you have to be aware that conflicts trigger strong emotions. Among the most common techniques are Forcing, Win-Win, Compromising, Withdrawing, and Smoothing. I highly recommend you research and learn these techniques.
In conclusion, we use soft skills in our everyday life, some more than others, but for a project manager, researching and developing these skills with techniques is very important, read, get a mentor, watch a video, etc. and apply what you learn, it will have a big impact in your career.